I’m back! Thoughts on my first spring bike commute and why I take the lane (Sam, reblogged from 2015)

It’s a spring like day outside and many of us are starting to commute by bike again. (I know some of you never stopped. I intended to never stop but my knee injury had other ideas.) This is my story of why I assertively take the lane and make cars ride around me. Warning: Contains bike crash photos. I don’t think they are particularly gruesome and I’m smiling in them. I wasn’t seriously injured and my bike was just fine. A happy ending and a lesson learned, from my point of view.


#lovethegymagain (part 2): personal training

I wrote last week about falling in love with the gym again, and about being grateful to be in such an accessible, welcoming space full of people moving their bodies in the ways that work for them.  But there’s another reason I’m loving the gym right now:  I have a much greater focus than I’ve had in a long time because I worked with a personal trainer for just one session to develop an upper body workout plan that I can do on my own.

IMG_0127Personal training has never been a thing for me, except for a brief stint 23 years ago when I had the chance to work with a new pilates instructor one-on-one before she opened her now veteran studio.  That was a long time ago, but my time with her helped me develop a deep understanding of core work as foundational to everything else I do, and I still incorporate some of the moves we did together into my regular routine.  Despite that, I never felt a need to work with another personal trainer.

Mostly over the past two decades I’ve been a runner and a cyclist who looks at the gym to stay a wee bit in shape during the times it’s too horrible out to move outside.  (I admit I’m a winter running wimp, and I put away the bike at the end of October). Last fall, though, I became sort of self-consciously aware that while I was doing plenty of running and riding/spinning, and occasional yoga classes, I really wasn’t doing anything focused for my upper body.  I would go to the weights/conditioning section of my gym and sort of half-assedly move weights around, using various phone apps for suggestions on how to lift things well.  Then I had a brainstorm.

The 218 in 2018 group Sam and I have written about a lot is organized by Jason, a pal of Sam’s who runs a personal training and coaching business. I liked the way Jason-the-trainer answered questions on our facebook group, and I happened to be going to Saskatoon for work, where Jason lives.  So I booked a personal training session with him, and asked him to help me develop an upper body freeweight workout.

IMG_7846It was deep winter when I arrived in Saskatoon, and my flight was late, so I went straight from the airport to Jason’s gym.  The world immediately went from frozen to warm, both in actual temperature (Saskatoon is COLD in early February!) and in the way Jason and his colleagues welcomed me.  Because of the FB group, I felt like I already knew him, and we dived right in.

Before we met, Jason asked me a bunch of questions about how much I worked out, the mix of things I do, and why I wanted to focus on my upper body.  He told me he’d come up with a plan and teach it to me in our in-person session.


When I got there, he was all set up with a white board with three different sets of five exercises he’d designed for me.  The intention was for me to start with the first one for about a month, then when I got comfortable, move onto number 2, then number 3.  The first routine was more basic and included exercises I’m familiar with — but rarely do.  By the time we got to the third set, it was mostly new-to-me things.  This made me happy.

In our in-person session, Jason and I had a great time working out together.  He taught me about the three different planes of the body and how it’s important to build fitness in all of them.  (I can’t name them, but I can show you with hand gestures).  We joked that he and I have the same body type — not too tall, quick to build muscle and strength, not too flexible and quick to build softness and roundness.  Because of that I felt far more comfortable working out with him than the tall, super-muscley, 10% body fat guys who lead the bootcamp classes at my Y.  He also subtly made me feel strong, observing my form in planks and pushups, noting that I have good control over my body, gently making adjustments and suggestions to correct my habits of relying on certain muscle groups.

Within our 45 minute workout, I immediately recognized that I always ignore my triceps and that I have more discipline than I have been drawing on.  Even though we were working mostly with dumbbells and elastic straps, the big scary machines were demystified for me, and I had a new felt sense of the right level of weights for different moves.

I returned home and to my Y with an actual sense of fun and excitement about incorporating a 30 minute weight workout to my existing time at the gym once or twice a week.  It’s been four weeks, and I feel like I’ve “mastered” the form on the first set of exercises and gone up one weight set in each of them.  I’ve discovered I actually like to watch myself lift small weights into upright rows in the mirror — it makes me feel strong and reinforces my desire to work harder.

I don’t think it’s an accident that I’ve already done 50 workouts so far this year — it feels good to feel like I know what I’m doing, and to have a sense of my growing strength.  And it feels good to feel competent around the guys in the weight area who are a foot taller than I am.


Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and works in Toronto when she’s not flying all over the world.  She is a regular contributor to the blog.








athletes · competition · fitness · inclusiveness · running · training · triathalon

By the way, fat people also aren’t lying about exercise either

Earlier this week, I talked about the lack of credibility given to fat people when it comes to what we eat. You can tell people, if you’re me, that you’re a non drinking, non fast food eating, vegetarian but people don’t really believe you.

But it’s also true that no one believes what we do when it comes to activity either.

This week Ragen Chastain appeared in People Magazine as the heaviest woman to ever complete a marathon. She’s actually completed two because the first time she didn’t know it would put her in the Guinness book of records and she didn’t notify them.

She’s not alone as a larger endurance athlete. See my post (Updated) Plus sized endurance athletes, we exist!

What gets me about Ragen is not what she’s done, though that’s remarkable at any size, it’s the lengths people will go to deny it. Tracy blogged about it here, When “pathetic” loses its irony. It’s a post about a Facebook group she was in that allowed a lot of Ragen trolling, bashing, and skepicism to go unchecked.

You can follow Ragen’s journey to Ironman here at her blog IronFat.

The Ragen haters have their own blog IronFacts, which is a debunking blog which supposedly tells the truth about Ragen and details her lies. It was last updated in May 2017. Since presumably People magazine has its own fact checkers maybe that’s shut them up. I don’t know. I find the whole thing puzzling.

Like, why would you even doubt that she’s telling the truth?

There are medals, race finishing photos, pictures of completion times. She’s never claimed to run the whole thing. Instead Ragen like lots of amateur athletes runs and walks her marathons. That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

To me it can only be explained by a kind of prejudice against larger bodies, that those of us who have them can’t be trusted and shouldn’t be believed. We set out to lie and to cheat people. I’m not sure why people believe this but they seem to.

What do you think? Do you also find out puzzling?

The sun setting over Mo’orea, an island in French Polynesia

Do you have a club or group who wants to host a book event with Tracy and Sam?

Image description: stack of 10 copies of Fit at Mid-Life, spines facing forward.
Image description: stack of 10 copies of Fit at Mid-Life, spines facing forward.

Hey, everyone. We are over the moon with excitement as the first copies of the book have started arriving in bookstores, a few weeks before the official publication date (April 14 in Canada; April 17 in the US; April 19 in the UK).

We’d like to take this on the road! But bookstores, because they do so many events for some many different kinds of books, aren’t always in the best position to do the outreach to our audience (that’s you!). So if you’ve got a club or group that would like to put together an event, maybe reach out to a local bookstore to host it — our publicists can help you.

We are also big fans of libraries, and we know they do a great job hosting successful events. As a matter of fact, our London, Ontario launch is on April 28th at 2 p.m. at the Landon Library in Wortley Village. If you’re a library or wish to partner with a library, that’s another way to go and our publicists can help with that, too.

Sam and I (Tracy) are both experienced speakers who enjoy talking to groups. We would love to do a few events in the coming weeks and months to help spread our feminist fitness message to a wider audience. And we’d love to meet you, even go for a workout with your group.

Canadian locations we can travel to: Halifax, Montreal, Southern Ontario (including the GTA, Ottawa, Kingston, locations between Toronto and London).

US locations we can travel to: Boston, New York, Annapolis, Newport, Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and other Northeast Coast locations; San Francisco.

Other destinations might be possible, but these are the most accessible to us based on our current plans and availability. If you’re interested in an event and you’re not in one of the places on our list, let’s still talk and see what we can do.

If you have an idea for an event, please let us know and we will put you in touch with our publicists.

Hope to hear from you.

Sam and Tracy

body image · eating · eating disorders

Where are the images of orthoxeric men? Or, our culture is so very weird

Scrolling through Facebook, as one might in an airport departure lounge (okay, who am I kidding, as I do everywhere) I burst out laughing when I came across this post from the blog’s Rebecca Kukla:

“Notorious Christina Van Dyke points out (“Eat Y’Self Fitter: Orthorexia, Health, and Gender,” 2018) that if you google image ‘orthorexia,’ the only image you get of a man is of “a very thin, non-standardly-attractive man with painted-black fingernails and tattoos looking anxious and holding an avocado.” This has had me giggling for days. I hereby share the image of troubled tattooed skinny avocado man, who now has been joined, I should note, by troubled tattooed skinny apple man, also here pictured.

Overwhelmingly the images are of ‘pretty’ young white women dressed in white happily drowning in implausibly huge piles of fruits and vegetables. Our culture is SO WEIRD. SO WEIRD PEOPLE.”

Here’s the images:


Here’s Christina Van Dyke’s abstract of her paper:

“Attitudes toward healthy eating and dietary choices are increasingly important components of how people conceive of (and judge) both themselves and others. This chapter examines orthorexia—a condition in which the subject becomes obsessed with identifying and maintaining the ideal diet, rigidly avoiding foods perceived as unhealthy or harmful—and it argues that the condition represents an extreme manifestation of sociocultural norms that people are all being pushed toward. These norms are highly gendered, however, and women and men are thus sometimes portrayed as if they were striving toward radically different goals in the elusive quest for perfect health. Yet what makes orthorexia destructive to both men and women is ultimately a common urge to transcend rather than to embrace the realities of embodiment. In short, orthorexia is best understood as a manifestation of age-old anxieties about human finitude and mortality—anxieties that current dominant sociocultural forces prime people to experience and express in unhealthy attitudes toward healthy eating.”

Because the 80s is my cultural home, here’s The Fall, Eat Y’Self Fitter:

diets · eating · fitness · food · health

Are fat people lying?

When I was a kid the thing I hated the most about being young was not being believed. See Seen but not heard: children and epistemic injustice for a discussion of this phenomena in the medical context.

Lots of groups aren’t given the credence they deserve. It’s not just children of course. It’s also women, disabled persons, people of colour. And people who bear multiple minority group status can be doubly or triply not trusted.

You can add to this list of victims of epistemic injustice, fat people.

See There are no right answers for your fat friend.

It’s about the interrogation fat people face about what and how much we eat.

“Sometimes, when I tell her how I eat, she will flatly insist, that’s not possible. Because to her, my body is evidence in a trial that’s already underway. Like a childhood nightmare, I am failing a test that was never announced. I am on trial, and she is judge, jury, executioner. Her eyes are fiery, overtaken with a determination I do not understand. She is a bomb I cannot defuse.

This is the interaction, with staggering reliability, and not only with her. The interrogation is visited upon me from old men and young women; city-dwellers and rural folks; people of all ages and many walks of life. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, this is how we will interact. Every question is a turning point, and every answer a dead end. I am forever searching for an escape that does not exist.”

I get this too. I hate feeling like I am a mystery or a liar. For awhile a group of fat athletes were posting food logs online. In a “believe me now?” exercise they shared without logs and food logs for the world to see.

But the thing is it never works. It’s all about fear. If I’m fat and exercise and eat well, it could happen to you too. That’s horrifying news.

No one wants to believe that. Thin people want to believe they work hard and deserve their thinness. So it must be that I’m lying. Or I haven’t tried the right thing that works. Most recent was a cycling coach (not mine who also struggles with his weight and knows) who said there must be some number of calories you could eat and lose weight. Do that! What if I ate that few calories and couldn’t ride my bike? Lose weight now and ride your bike later. Unbelievable.

It’s frustrating. It makes me angry. It makes me feel unseen and unbelieved.

I wish I had something positive to say about this, some suggestions for a way out, but I don’t. I do know that going down the road of telling people what I do and what I eat isn’t worth it.

I don’t hide in my room and emotionally eat cookies. I don’t. I don’t say I’m exercising when I’m not. Really.

Do you experience this? What’s your strategy?

A photo from Unsplash of colorful cookies, the word “love” and pretty pink flowers
diets · fitness

The latest episode of “don’t believe what you read in the news about nutrition and dieting”

Greetings, dear readers– we at Fit is a Feminist Issue spend a lot of time and energy writing about the latest and greatest research on nutrition, physical activity, aging, wellness, etc.  We do it for a few reasons:

First, knowledge is power.  BTW, here is a very weird, but also oddly compelling, image of that saying that I found online.

The words "knowledge is power", accompanied inexplicably by pictures of two sloth-heads resting on one claw. A purple/orange sunset is in the background.
The words “knowledge is power”, accompanied inexplicably by pictures of two sloth-heads resting on one claw. A purple/orange sunset is in the background.

I think they’re sloths, but am not sure.  I welcome correction/alternative spectulation in the comments.

Back to our reasons for writing about science and nutrition, physical activity, etc.: there is a LOT of misinformation out there.  A lot-a-lot, or however you like to say/spell it.

Words:  a lot, alot, allot, lots, against a red background.
Words: a lot, alot, allot, lots, against a red background.

So, “what’s the latest misinformation?”, you may be asking.  I don’t have all day here…

Okay.  Here’s the  scoop:

The New York Times came out with the following headline this week:

NY Times headline reading, "the key to weight loss is diet quality, not quantity, a new study finds"
NY Times headline reading, “the key to weight loss is diet quality, not quantity, a new study finds”

Here’s a quote:

…a new study, published Tuesday in JAMA,…found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods while concentrating on eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods — without worrying about counting calories or limiting portion sizes — lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year.

The strategy worked for people whether they followed diets that were mostly low in fat or mostly low in carbohydrates. And their success did not appear to be influenced by their genetics or their insulin-response to carbohydrates, a finding that casts doubt on the increasingly popular idea that different diets should be recommended to people based on their DNA makeup or on their tolerance for carbs or fat.

The research lends strong support to the notion that diet quality, not quantity, is what helps people lose and manage their weight most easily in the long run.

Wow!  So does this mean that those who are still looking for a weight-loss program that works have found it?  Maybe this is it:  forget about calorie counting, forget about portion control, forget about balance of carbs and fats– just eat lots of fruits and veggies and avoid processed foods, and you’ll lose weight and keep it off.

Of course this is what many people think:  anyone who follows a sensible, non-junk-food diet will of course lose weight and keep it off.  And anyone whose weight is above what some set of guidelines and conventions dictates must be doing something wrong, not adhering to this modest and simple dietary advice.

Well, no. No on many fronts.  Lots of nos here.

1000 times no.
1000 times no.

Why am I saying no? Because, among other things, what the NY Times said the study said is NOT what the study said.  Here’s what the study said:

Question  What is the effect of a healthy low-fat (HLF) diet vs a healthy low-carbohydrate (HLC) diet on weight change at 12 months and are these effects related to genotype pattern or insulin secretion?

Findings  In this randomized clinical trial among 609 overweight adults, weight change over 12 months was not significantly different for participants in the HLF diet group (−5.3 kg) vs the HLC diet group (−6.0 kg), and there was no significant diet-genotype interaction or diet-insulin interaction with 12-month weight loss.

Meaning  There was no significant difference in 12-month weight loss between the HLF and HLC diets, and neither genotype pattern nor baseline insulin secretion was associated with the dietary effects on weight loss.

This study was designed to see if low-fat or low-carb diets worked better over 12 months for weight loss or improved metabolic health.  It found that neither one outperformed the other.  It didn’t say anything about embracing or eschewing calorie counting or portion control.  It didn’t test for either of those.

Here’s part of the problem.  Some studies that get null results.  In this case, researchers asked the question “is x better than y?” and got the answer “neither is better than the other”.  That’s it.  But people want to use this result to reinforce their own pre-existing views or favored hopeful views.  In this very insightful article, the authors  explain:

…it’s very tempting to misuse a null result as proof for cherished beliefs. In their discussion, the researchers did a little bit of this. They wrote in their discussion:

We conclude that when equal emphasis is given to high dietary quality for both low-fat and low carbohydrate eating plans, it is not helpful to preferentially direct an individual with high insulin secretion status who is seeking weight loss to follow a lower-carbohydrate eating plan instead of a lower-fat eating plan.

Of course, that “conclusion” is an opinion. It’s not a finding supported by this experiment. This study is a really good study, but it’s not a study of dietary quality. It’s a study of two high quality diets.

This good article cited another detailed and good article here, if you want the nitty gritty details.  Some of them include:

  • low-carb group diet had lower glycemic load than low-fat group;
  • LDL cholesterol decreased for low-fat group and increased for low-carb group;
  • low-carb group saw increase in HDL cholesterol and reduction in triglycerides relative to low-fat group;
  • resting energy expenditure decreased significantly for both groups, with no significant differences between them.

This last item is definitely not good, but we knew this already.  Dieting tends to lower your basal metabolic rate.  The other items make these diets neck-in-neck in terms of advantages and disadvantages.  Hence the “no difference” conclusion.

a scale with three circles on the left, three squares on the right, and the words "no significant difference" below.
a scale with three circles on the left, three squares on the right, and the words “no significant difference” below.

But that makes for poor newspaper copy.  Hence the wrong-information headline.

We at Fit is a Feminist Issue will be continuing to stay on the job, searching out bogus or misleading science/medicine headlines, so you don’t have to.

Just doing my job, with a girl making cake batter.


aging · body image · fashion · fitness · swimming

Guess which body shaming phrase Sam doesn’t ever want to hear again?

As you are likely sick of hearing by now, I’m on a cruise ship in French Polynesia. We’re currently anchored just off Bora Bora. I think it’s trademarked as the most beautiful island in the world but it’s also the most developed and touristy of the places we’ve visited. It’s known as the honeymoon capital of Polynesia. That might be a reason to pick another island to visit if you’re not honeymooning though we weren’t inundated with honeymooners at our end of the island.

It’s a big deal for me, this holiday. I don’t usually do big vacations. I think this is the longest holiday of my life. It’s certainly the most luxurious. (Thanks best sister-in-law in the world, thanks again.)

One of the things I really like about this cruise ship experience is that it’s not just North Americans onboard. There are loads of Australians, Canadians, also a lot of Europeans. There are a lot of different languages being spoken over breakfast.

But that makes for some interesting cultural differences across a range of areas including bathing suit choices. Some of the older American women are wearing what look like cute beach dresses. I’ve written about these before when I considered buying one but decided not to in the end. I’ve stuck with my standard issue athletic bikini through the years.

Blue sky with some clouds, lush tropical forest and a beach. Also, Sam in a blue and black two piece bathing suit.

The Australians, older Australians anyway, are not so modest. Ditto the French and the Germans. There are much older men and women of all shapes and sizes wearing fairly minimal swimwear. String bikinis and speedos all round. Who cares right? Exactly. Personally, I think it’s great.

Now we could each all do our own thing without comment. You do you! Nice beach dress! Cute string bikini! That’s my preference. But no. There’s always one person who uses my most hated body shaming phrase, “we don’t need to see that.” See here for my last blog post about it!

Often the phrase is accompanied by further editorial comment meant to make it clear that it’s not that no one could ever wear such a bathing suit, you know, it would be okay if they were younger, thinner, more fit, whatever.

I’m not a person who argues with other people I don’t know on small boats. But I kept thinking of replies. My mother’s reply: Don’t like it, then don’t look. Simple. Or my own thought, I don’t think she’s dressing for you. Or how about just, that’s bullshit.

Now this year, this time, I don’t think they were talking about me and my bikini. I’m hoping I can maintain my “that’s bullshit” attitude when it is. Because I plan to keep wearing a bikini into my 60s, 70s, and beyond. See you at the beach!

cycling · holiday fitness · holidays

Rediscovering the love of simple bikes: Sam and Susan go for a ride on Bora Bora

Susan and her cruiser!

Cycling, more than any physical activity, sends me back to my youth. Whee! Bikes give kids freedom to get places and to do things, away from the adult world. See here.

Susan and I got a taste of that feeling on this cruise. The ship anchors and we take the tender to shore. But when you get there you’ve got your choice of organized group activities (catamarans, picnics, snorkeling in the reef, visiting vanilla farms) or heading out on your own. We’ve done some of the group stuff but some of the time it feels good to get away from all the people and explore.

The difficulty with heading out on your own is that my legs only take us so far. See here for an update about my knee. And there’s only so much time The beach in Bora Bora, for example, was 7 km from the pier. It was definitely too hot to walk. We could rent a car, but really, no.

Instead twice now we’ve rented bikes. They’re island bikes, the most basic of bikes. They’re cruiser style bikes with back pedal brakes. There are no speeds and no fancy gears. You just pedal and go.

Also, no helmets! Some Americans from the ship scolded us for riding without helmets. We felt like bad kids.But really no one here is wearing a helmet.

At home I have specialized bikes, a bike for each thing. I have a track bike, a fat bike, an aero road bike, another road bike, an adventure road bike that I use for commuting. You get the idea. This is not that kind of biking.

So on Bora Bora we hopped on our bright green cruisers and wheeled away. Whee! I loved riding with the locals most of whom use bikes as transportation. There were bikes with multiple kids hanging onto parents riding into town. Lots of kids riding by themselves too, with no adult in sight.

With no fancy bike shoes we could hop on and hop off at ease. With kick stands we could just set the bike upright and stop to look at roadside stands and festivals.

Yes, there was a fair bit of car and truck and bus traffic on the same road but no one was going anywhere fast. People seemed used to bikes on the road. We felt pretty safe.

Of course we stopped at the beach to swim and to rest! And when we were ready, not when the group was ready or the clock said so, we biked back into town. Freedom. Whee!

martial arts

Focused Patterns Practice: Christine’s Daily Challenge

I need a lot of practice in order to get my patterns ready for my next belt test. I have a plan for how to get myself in gear and learn those patterns inside and out.

In the second half of each Taekwon-do year, my instructors host a competition class. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for students to sharpen their competition skills – to improve their precision in their patterns and their scoring in their sparring. Even though I take the competition classes each year, I am not particularly inclined to compete. Instead, I attend so I can sharpen my patterns through focused practice and so I can hop in the ring with other female students and give them a decent sparring partner.

Competition classes are starting this Tuesday and it is a huge wake-up call for me. If those classes are on the agenda, it means that June is not that far away. I am still hoping to test for my 3rd degree black belt in June* but I am seriously stalled on my patterns.

I have three patterns that I have to be proficient in for my test.  I have been taught two of the three** so far but I still don’t quite have them down. I get stuck at certain parts, the movements don’t flow easily, it doesn’t feel like I *own* them yet.  They aren’t totally out of reach or anything drastic, they  are just a bit tricky. Really, my issues with the these two patterns just come down to a lack of focused practice.

That’s not to say that I have not been practicing at all but I have not being doing the sort of practice that I know I need to do to be ready for my test. I know what it feels like when I am building the connections in my brain that will let me do my patterns with ease and I have not been doing that specific type of work. There are lots of good reasons why I haven’t but it is definitely time for me to switch gears and bring my focus to that type of learning.

That’s why I have decided to let you know about my need to do this type of practice, since knowing that you are paying attention will help me stay one track. 

Starting today, I will do AT LEAST 15 minutes of focused patterns practice a day until March 31.                                           

A pile of white sheets of paper, the top sheet is a chart on graph paper with the dates across the top and a list of patterns down the side.
My tracker for my patterns practice and other preparations in Februrary/March.

Some days I will be doing Eui-Am (I almost have this one ready), others I will be doing Juche (this one’s trickier), and on other days,  I will be practicing my earlier patterns so they will be ready for when I need them.

How does all of this relate to the competition class? Well, for starters, those classes create a sense of urgency – moving my practice from ‘something I should get to’ to ‘something I must prioritize.’ 

Plus, now I have opportunity to bring those developing patterns to competition class and focus intently on improving them. We get lots of assistance in our regular classes but there is something extra that we all bring to those competition classes that will really help me zero in on my challenges.

I will write about my progress (in addition to other things) in my two blog posts in March so you can know if I keep my promise.

Let’s see what that 15 minutes a day will bring.




PS – Are you in need of focused practice on anything at the moment? Want to join me?


*My tests are at my instructors’ discretion. The plan is for me to test in June but if they deem that I am not ready, I won’t be testing.
**I’ll be learning the third one in class over the next little while.