diets · eating · fitness · food · holiday fitness · holidays · Martha's Musings · nutrition · season transitions

T’is the season to detox yourself from cleanses, diets and weird wellness claims

By MarthaFitat55

It’s not even December 1 and I have been seeing a non-stop stream of ads, posts and recommended links on all manner of cleanses. Some are short, some are long, some are liquid, and some are minimal. All are useless.

Timothey Caulfield at the University of Alberta debunks the latest holiday cleanses in this article. Caulfield writes:

The idea that we need to cleanse and detoxify our bodies seems to have become a culturally accepted fact. This feels especially true around the holidays which are associated with heavy foods and even heavier shame about what that turkey and gravy and wine might be doing to our insides. After a weekend of indulgence, wellness gurus cry, your body is begging for a detox. But is it?

 While there is something to be said for countering a week (or two) of indulgence with lighter fare, unless you were born liver-less or you lost your liver along the way, the human body has its own detox system right inside you: the aforementioned liver and kidneys.

 There’s a huge market out there and if you build it, make it, sell it, they will come. The promises are endless but the long and short of it is simple: today’s cleanses and detox programs are primarily designed to relieve you of your money.

The sellers of these cleanses rely on fear and vanity, and also on society’s preoccupation on thinness. The messages are often wrapped upin social beliefs about health and wellness.

 We empower people to take charge of their health, especially women who are often responsible for managing their well being along with those of their families. Who wants to be known as someone who does not care about their health? Not me.

While the social imperative to diet, to cleanse, to eat clean is present year-round, there seems to be special pressure in December to do any number of things to ensure we have the perfect body.

 All the ads I have seen lead me to believe that we must cleanse the body the same way we cleanse our homes for special occasions this time of year. In January, when the new year has begun and we barely have had time to vacuum the pine needles and expunge the last piece of glitter from our homes, we get a different chorus but still with the same tune.

I suggest, if we are to cleanse anything, it is these sorts of unhelpful and unhealthy approaches to wellness.

So if you are confused and challenged by all that you see, remember this: everything in moderation. Your body will do what it needs to do. Fuel it appropriately.  Move lots (preferably outside if it isn’t blowing a gale). Get lots of sleep. Drink lots of water. Have fun.

MarthaFitat55 lives and writes in St. John’s.

fitness · running · tbt · winter

Bracing myself for winter running…again #tbt

As I brace myself again for winter running, this post from last year seems a propos. Why does winter running always feel SO HARD at the beginning, when it’s not even as cold or icy or windy as it’s going to get?

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

winter runningEvery year it seems as if, despite the inevitability of winter, the running outside in winter thing comes as a sudden shock. I had to laugh when I sat down to write this post because I did a little search of the blog for past posts on winter running. That yielded not one, not two, not three, but four posts of my own on running in winter, plus posts by Susan and Sam.

The annual winter running post idea (brilliant and original, I know!) came to me because Sunday was my first real winter run of the season. The kind with snow and wind and cold. And it wasn’t even a lot of any of them. But still, brrrrrr. Because even as a Canadian I have to acclimatize every single winter.

Once I do, it’s brilliant really. I mean, you can dress for most winter running conditions and be quite…

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body image · fitness · inclusiveness · media

Fat babies deserve heads

We’ve written about it before. See Is the end in sight for headless fatty photos?  and No more headless fatties, why not use images of active fat people and Why the “headless fatty”.

I thoughte  it was getting better! But not for babies, The reporter in this case actually replied citing privacy concerns when it comes to infant images, But I’m pretty sure I’ve seen regular size babies with faces.

Why does it matter? What’s wrong with headless fat imagery? It’s this idea that it’s so shameful to have a body like this that we shouldn’t show their head or face in the media. But fat bodies belong everywhere. In the gym, in the classroom, on the runway, and in a diaper in the media.

weight lifting

Sam lifts heavy things in the wild, part 2!


I’ve written before about lifting heavy things as part of my everyday life. It feels really good to me to have my fitness be useful. It’s not just a gym thing. It’s not just about looking good or even just about lifting carefully calibrated weights in controlled circumstances. It’s also about doing things that make a difference in my life.

What sort of things? Well, moving furniture and getting ready for the holidays this past weekend. We also picked up furniture for the kid who is getting her own apartment. Hi Mallory!! Also there was holding ladders in place so that other people can climb them. Also there’s lifting those ladders. Why? Stringing Christmas lights. See above. Thanks Sarah.

And then there’s carrying boxes of Ikea shelves.

Sarah and I topped off the weekend by lugging these babies to Sarah’s car from her office. They’re pressure reducing valves, I’m told. They weigh about 50 lbs each, or more. And unlike heavy weights in the gym they don’t have smooth handles and no spikey bits sticking out. One has no handles and you have to carry it like ball. The other had handles but also sharp bits sticking out of it so you need to hold it away from your body for a bonus challenge.

I might be grimacing but it feels good to know that even with my busted knee I can still lift heavy things. That is, as long as I don’t have to carry them up and down stairs.

How are you putting your strength to use these days?

 

fitness · monthly check in

Sam’s monthly check-in: What’s up, what’s down, the November version (with usual CW for very brief discussion of diet and weight loss)

November isn’t my favourite month. But all things considered it’s gone okay. I’ve been lifting, biking, and swimming and my knee pain hasn’t been holding me back. I’ve been finding minutes of brightness in the dark. We even put lights on the house early.

My new job doesn’t let me hide away in the dark in the winter evenings as much as a regular faculty position and all things considered that’s a good thing. There are art gallery openings, music shows, theatre performances, and book launches. There may be a few too many evening dinners with campus visitors but mostly I’m enjoying it.

I’m also organizing events with friends. Sarah and I hosted a cookie party. Bring your own cookies and share! It wasn’t one of those “bake dozens of cookies and swap” parties. They’re too stressful. This was just “bring cookies and eat cookies.” We had a great time.

On the fitness front, I’ve been spending time in the gym with Meg, a U of G personal trainer and taking some classes like Aquafit and Bike Yoga. I’m also walking the dog lots and I’ve started a bike streak. It’s not perfect but it’s not that bad either.

Weight wise, I’m still losing weight slowly, tracking calories on my fitness pal. My knee feels better so I’m going to keep at it.

Best of all, November is almost over and I kick off the holiday season Saturday with this wonderful concert that my daughter Mallory sings in. She’s also moving December 1 so it’s a big weekend ahead!

fitness

Fit Feminist Challenge Group Update

One of Christine’s lovely graphics that she designed for our Fit Feminist Challenge Group.

Hey everyone. Remember way back in September when Cate, Christine and I started the blog’s first “Fit Feminist Challenge Group”? Well guess what? The first iteration of three month challenge group is winding down this week and it’s been a fabulous experience.

We kind of jumped into it not knowing exactly how it would go or even having a clear idea of what we planned. We were firm in our commitment to try different things and see what worked and what didn’t.

Most of all we wanted to create a supportive community where people could get ideas, focus their goals and strategize how to meet them, and feel the motivational and inspirational force of being in a group where people are happy to cheer you on. And in keeping with the blog’s feminist principles, we encouraged people to shift their focus away from dieting and weight loss and looking a certain way.

I’m happy to report that we mostly did that. Though not everyone who joined at the beginning stayed plugged in as a major presence (and there may be things we can do to prevent that next time), the community remained supportive and encouraging to the end, and we really didn’t need to remind people to steer clear of weight loss and dieting as conversational topics in the group.

For the first couple of months we stuck more or less to themes for each day of the week: Motivation Monday, Try This Tuesday, Workout Wednesday, Tag Thursday, Fun Friday, Sum Up Saturday, and Strategize Sunday. Cate, Christine, and I took turns posting to the group on the theme and invited people to share in the comments. Christine designed some colourful and fun images to go with each day, and things rolled along with one of us taking responsibility for a couple of days each week and rotating through every third Sunday.

Over time, we got more inventive (or maybe we felt the themes were getting old), drifting away from the set script and being more free with our posts when we felt like it.

We also tried a few things that didn’t work well. The main thing that didn’t work as we thought it might was breaking people up into small groups that were asked to check in with one another on specific days of the week. So there was a Monday check-in group, a Tuesday check-in group, etc. We thought this would give people a chance to bond with a smaller group, but instead it resulted in many people being confused about whether they could post outside of that weekly check-in, and hence they felt alienated from the larger group. That had never been our intention, so after we felt it not coming together, we did a little poll that confirmed our suspicion. Out with the small groups!

We also have determined that three months might just be a little too long to keep the momentum and energy going unless the facilitators have a lot of time and energy to doing just that (and even then, you really do need to switch things up regularly to keep everyone’s attention). The next versions of challenge groups will be shorter in duration and more focused in purpose. 

Overall, as I said in my post to the group for this morning’s “Talk about it Tuesday” (we morphed into that from Try This Tuesday after we thought it unreasonable to have people try something new every single week!), my greatest insight from the challenge group experience was how much I enjoy being accountable to and a part of a supportive group. It’s super inspiring to gain energy from the energy and enthusiasm of others.

Do you like the idea of online challenge groups as a way of incorporating more consistent fitness practices into your life? Have you had any experience with this type of support environment? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

body image · eating · eating disorders · fitness

Corsets to help that eating disorder along…

Look what came through my newsfeed on Black Friday: “It’s not a corset, it’s shapewear! It’s made of the same stuff as gym leggings. Why? Well, it keeps you conscious of everything you’re eating, it holds you in & basically makes you feel amazing. Grab yours now in the “BLACK FRIDAY Meltdown”

MAKES YOU CONSCIOUS OF EVERYTHING YOU’RE EATING? That’s the line that caught my eye. 

I’ve written before about corsets for working out.  Not surprisingly I didn’t have much good to say. I ended by saying that I’m sticking with exercise clothes that don’t pinch at the waist, like my cycling bib shorts. I am a big fan of breathing. 

Corsets pose a difficult issue for feminists. See The Complicated Feminist Ethics Of Corsets And Waist Trainersand Can We Wear the Corset Trend and Still Be Feminists? and Fit to be tied: Is the controversial corset making a comeback?

My feminism and fashion students a few years ago were torn between “you do you”–it’s all about choice–and thinking it might be fun for sexy fetish wear. No one wanted to defend the corset for daily wear, not in front of the class anyway. What are the daily wear arguments? Some people just like the way they look. Others like the posture correcting effects. And finally, others thought they were a good way to control your appetite because there’s no room for food when everything is tucked in tight with a corset.

Now this ISN’T A CORSET (though I’ve got to say it looks like one). Note though the argument in its favour is food related. It makes you conscious of every bite you take.  Presumably the idea is that there’s no mindless munching. But my worry is that you also eat less. Sometimes that might be less than you need. 

What are your thoughts? What do you make of the diet related reasons to wear a “not-quite-corset”? 

charity · cycling · holiday fitness · holidays · motivation · training

Big Hills and Big Cities: Sam’s Summer Cycling Plans

In my no excuses winter cycling plan I talked about making big summer cycling commitments as one of the ways I motivate myself to train for cycling through the cold snowy months of winter.

I thought I’d share those summer commitments with you. Now I’m doubly committed. I planned to do the thing and I told you about it.

In May Sarah, Jeff, and I kick things off with the Five Boros Bike Tour.

“The Five Boro Bike Tour is an annual recreational cycling event in New York City. It is produced by Bike New York. Conducted on the first Sunday of May, the 40-mile ride includes over 30,000 riders. The route takes riders through all five of New York’s boroughs and across five major bridges.”

Sarah and I did it in 2017. See our blog post 5 boros, 32,000 riders, 40 miles, 0 cars, and 1 great day, #tdfbbt.

The other Sarah who blogs here occasionally did it in 2015 and again in years after. Her post is called NYC 5 Boroughs Bike Tour (Guest Post)

It’s a great ride. Come join us!

Here’s Kim and Sarah R and me and Sarah lining up at the start.


June is our biggest thing. We’re doing a ten day bike tour of the northwest coast of Newfoundland. It’s a lot of riding, a lot of hills, and also likely some rain. It’s June 29-July 8. So far it’s Sarah, Cate, David and me. But if you’re interested, sign up!

On August 11 we’re doing the One Day Friends for Life Bike Rally. Sponsor me here.

And then on August 16-18, 2019 Sarah and I are Trying the tri-adventure in its last. year… Join us!!!

Sponsor us here.

fitness · yoga

On doing yoga and not doing religion (or doing it– you pick)

Is yoga a religious practice? A form of exercise? A form of therapy? A tradition that’s been co-opted and distorted beyond all recognition (think chocolate or wine-infused yoga)? An excuse to buy more tie-dye yoga pants (oops, that may be just me…)?

In case you’re curious, I just bought these recently, and they’re cutey-cute.

Cute blue and purple tie-dye yoga pants.
Cute blue and purple tie-dye yoga pants.

Do we have to care about the question of what is yoga? 

Maybe not, but lots of others are forcing our hand/calling us out/dressing us down for doing yoga.  In particular, the pastor of an Assemblies of God megachurch in Missouri warned his congregation that the positions in yoga were “created with demonic intent to open you up to demonic power because Hinduism is demonic.”

Let me be clear.  By “demonic”, he did not mean that yoga was demonically difficult, as this pose might mislead him to believe:

A woman in an advanced balance pose, wearing super-cute red, blue and black geometric print leggings.
A woman in an advanced balance pose, wearing super-cute red, blue and black geometric print leggings.

My first thought here is– where did she get those super-cute leggings?  I want some. My second thought is– yes, there are some very advanced balance poses out there (which I enjoy sharing with you, dear readers). But finding balance– physical and emotional– in yoga is its best thing for me. So yoga is not demonically difficult.  It’s just itself.

Okay, back to the yoga-is-demonic charge: According to a Springfield News-Leader article,

Lindell explained that yoga’s intent is to “raise and expand consciousness for the purpose of experiencing peace, energy and divine presence.”

Then, he talked about meditation.
During meditation, he said, people clear their minds. Sometimes they chant a mantra, which can incorporate the names of Hindu gods, Lindell said.

He said it’s “spiritually dangerous” for people to empty their minds.

Okay– probably most/close-to-all of you who read this blog will think, “Really?  This is ludicrous and ignorant.”  I happen to agree.  And I could launch into a quick-and-dirty response, citing the most erudite Wikipedia pages I can find on Christian meditationits history, Christian yoga practitioners, and other cute yoga pants I want (oops sorry– that just slipped out). But I won’t, mainly because when you ask around— and I asked my friend Matthew, who is an Indian philosophy specialist in my department–  the situation is complicated. 

So what have I learned this week about yoga and religion?

  • Some Christian groups oppose yoga, claiming it is a way to entice children and adults into becoming Eastern religion (presumably Hinduism) practitioners. 
  • Other Christian groups endorse yoga as both wellness and meditative practice.
  • Politicians in Alabama have banned yoga in schools.
  • A lawsuit brought by parents in Encinitas county in California to try to ban yoga from schools failed. However, it raised issues that school yoga proponents are taking seriously.  School yoga programs are being stripped of all Sanskrit, Omming, hands in prayer position in heart center, etc.
  • In India, there is conflict between some Muslim and some Hindu groups over yoga, and its use in service of Hindu nationalism. All the information I have on this comes from this podcast, so I don’t really know what’s up with this.  But, it was worth a listen.
  • What roles yoga plays in Hinduism is a matter of serious discussion among scholars.
  • What are the actual roots of yoga is a matter of serious discussion among scholars.
  • This very interesting article from the Conversation says that yoga means a lot of different things in different contexts, and what it is now is pretty hodge-podgey (my words, not the article’s) and not coherently religious.

Last thoughts here: I do a lot of different physical activities for a lot of reasons. Both cycling and yoga help clear my head; they are thoroughly engrossing whole-body activities that take me out of my regular life and info the present moment. Hill-climbing, as much as I sort of dread it, is a case in point. I focus on the road about 8–10 feet in front of me, pedal and breathe. When I am in a one-footed balance pose in yoga class, I am aware of my back, my hips, my ankles, etc., and I focus and breathe.

The meanings I take from these activities are individual and change over my life course. I happen to love saying “Om” because the vibrations in my body feel great, and I like singing or vocalizing it loudly and long. That’s me. I love pedaling along country roads and hearing the sound of the tires and my breath. That’s me. 

Are these experiences a form of religion?  Are these experiences a form of some particular form of religion? Does engaging in these practices make one an adherent of some religion? For me, it doesn’t matter that I separate, label and assess what I’m doing in these ways. In the mean and terrible world we live in, all I can say is I want more of this:

A person doing a yoga pose while holding onto the handlebars of a bike.
A person doing a yoga pose while holding onto the handlebars of a bike.

fitness

Make it weird: How would you describe YOUR fitness activities?

It’s kind of weird how we all find our different paths to fitness and we all find different things that we enjoy. It’s even weirder what people in a given sport find fun.

Martial arts are definitely a case in point for weirdness.

Possible trigger warning: Physical violence. I am a martial artist so my sport involves getting struck. We employ all kinds of safety practices and I am never in danger but depending on your history, my descriptions might be upsetting or triggering. Please proceed with caution or feel free to skip this post..

I don’t know what you were up to last Saturday, but I spent my day choosing to be a target. And if my opponent missed, I advised them on how to kick and punch me more effectively. And then congratulating them when they did better in the next attempt.

This isn’t as odd as it sounds, I was actually at a sparring seminar hosted by our school and led by Grandmaster Laquerre, a highly skilled international sparring trainer.

I literally spent four hours taking turns kicking and punching someone and then letting them kick and punch me. And we observed each other’s kicks and punches so we could provide insight into how to fine tune our technique for when we are in the ring.

It was fun and challenging. I learned and practiced lots of great techniques.

Sparring is great exercise and great for letting off steam.  I know that it’s not for everyone, though.

The author, a white woman in her forties with short, light brown hair. Is wearing a white martial arts uniform. She is sweaty and she's smirking. There is an orange wall behind her.
Just FYI, four hours of sparring practice is hard.

And I’ve been doing this for so long now that it seems completely normal to me but when I try to explain it to someone else it sounds so very weird.

And it kind of reminded me of that Facebook meme where you are supposed to describe your job in as odd a way as possible. (e.g. I’m a writer so my response was ‘I spend my days in imaginary worlds and try to get other people to pay to keep me there.’)

So, just for fun, how can you describe your fitness activities in a way that would make people raise an eyebrow?