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.
It was above freezing this weekend and a high of 7 today. And I did it. I got my cyclocross/commuting bike (complete with bell, panniers, and fenders) out of the basement and rode to work. I smiled the entire way there and back. It felt so great to be riding outside again.
The bike path along the river in our city is nowhere near clear. It’s got big patches of snow and ice but the roads are in good shape. Cars aren’t quite used to seeing bikes again so I smiled and waved a lot but since bikes are associated with the return of above freezing weather, I think most people were happy to see me.
Finding a bike rack once I got the campus was a bit trickier. I had to climb a snowbank and attach my bike to what was the top of the rack…
Personal 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.
It 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Image of a very thin white man with dark hair, glasses and arm tattoos and a white tshirt with blue type on it contemplating an avacado
A very thin young white man with brown wavy hair, wearing a cream tshirt with an an image of a tree stares quizzically at an apple
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.