#deanslife · accessibility · equality · fitness · injury · racing

Stairs are not Sam’s friends

Image description:
The Girona Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona, is a Roman Catholic church located in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. It is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Girona.
Also, it has lots and lots of steps leading up to it!

Oh, old European cities. I love you. But I hate your stairs. SO MANY STAIRS.

Why do I hate stairs? They hurt my knees. It’s seriously painful even on days when I’m walking pain free. Down is way worse than up. Handrails help. I’m now a person who notices when they’re there and when they’re at the right height. I also sometimes worry that the stairs are making my knees worse.

So I turned to the Internet with my question. Dr. Google, do stairs simply hurt my arthritic knees or do they make things worse? Here’s a good a survey of the relevant literature.

“Stair climbing increases loads on the knee joints. And if we take into consideration the mechanical factor for appearing and progression of degenerative joint disease, it is clear that damage to joint cartilage increases with stair climbing. So reduced loads are beneficial for knee arthrosis.”

“Combination of stairs and weight or better loading and repetition of it is discussed as having some effect of knee joint degeneration. It is calculated that when someone is walking on plain ground he puts about 5 times the body weight or load in every step into the joint. When stairs are used or walking up or down hill the person is loading the knee up to 7 or 10 times the body weight or load according to the speed used. So repetition (circle of loading) – weight (and load) – and inclination of the ground has possibly effect of degenerative knee disease”

“The reasons why patients are advised to avoid them when OA shows up is that stairs are stress raisers, especially descending them. The point is that OA knees regardless the severity,  are often unstable and in these conditions stairs may  induce shear stresses on the cartilage and speed up the degenerative process. “

So I guess I should try to avoid them. I raised the issue at the knee surgery clinic on Monday when I was there for my regular appointment. Their message was clear. “You need to modify your activity. Avoid stairs when you can.”

See you on the escalator/in the elevator!

Though in these old cities there isn’t much choice.

Image description: Yellow brick buildings flanking a narrow walkway of stairs, in the old city of Girona.
diets · eating · eating disorders · fitness · health · overeating · self care · tbt · weight loss

Metabolic Health Is a Feminist Issue #tbt

For #tbt posts I like to go back to the same month in a previous year. Today we go back six years, to February 28, 2013, when I posted about metabolic health. Reading posts from the early days helps me to see how far I’ve come since we started the blog over six years ago. In this post, I finally “got it” about why it’s important to eat enough.

Over the last few years, my thinking and practice has shifted completely. Rarely do I worry about “eating too much,” unless in the sense of eating to physical discomfort, which simply doesn’t feel good. I think my metabolism has recovered from any damage I did in my decades of chronic dieting with the weight loss-gain roller coaster that comes along with it. Besides the idea of Intuitive Eating, this concept of Metabolic Health really helped me get to where I am today. If that’s of interest to you, read on….

blog · blogging · fitness

Top Ten Posts in February (also Sam Loves to Count)

  1. The pressure of cooking
  2. Yann Moix can kiss my ass, but he’ll have to catch me first (guest post)
  3. Crotch shots, upskirts, sports reporting, and the objectification of female athletes’ bodies
  4. Watch your step (guest post)
  5. Getting Real in a Perilous Time
  6. The power of a pound or two
  7. The newest processed food nutrition studies: more to chew on
  8. A tale of two bodies, or how (clothing) fit is a feminist issue
  9. 60 minutes a day is the sweet spot for women who want to live past 90
  10. Get off Sam’s lawn (with your normative femininity)!

cycling · fitness

Girona! I’ll be back

Have you ever visited a place and pretty much right away thought, “I’ll be back”?

I try to avoid spending all of my time in a new place planning my next visit and thinking about who I want to share it with. Life is short and we can’t see all the places with all the people. I set out with the goal of enjoying the experience for what it is.

(That said I do want to take my mother on the cruise ship through the French Pacific that Susan took me on last year. But I also want to go with Susan again. It would be fun take Sarah too. Also, I left Barcelona this time with promise to visit the Picasso Museum next time.)

But Girona! I was there for just a day in between Barcelona and Perpignan during last week’s European travels. It’s got so many things I love: art, old buildings, museums, cathedrals, good did, good coffee, and BIKES.

Here’s an official description of the city: “Girona is a city in Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region, beside the River Onyar. It’s known for its medieval architecture, walled Old Quarter (Barri Vell) and the Roman remains of the Força Vella fortress. Landscaped gardens line the Passeig Arqueològic, a walkway following the Old Quarter’s medieval walls, which include watchtowers with sweeping views.”

The biking angle? Read this guide to cycling in Girona. Great roads, lots of other cyclists, excellent coffee. Our hotel was clearly prepared for guests on two wheels. There was a spin studio, bike storage, and a scale in the bathroom. (Oh weight obsessed cyclists!)

Former pro-cyclist David Millar, interviewed in the article linked above, had this to say about the place:

“There’s a reason Girona has become the go-to place, and it begins with five things: one, good training roads i.e varying terrain, quiet, good quality; two, good weather (winter rarely below 0, summer low 30s); three, airports nearby; four, other professionals to train with, and five, a good quality of life for the whole family.

“The city itself is a hidden treasure, so close to Barcelona yet as far removed as one can imagine,” Millar adds. “Everybody who visits here for the first time is taken aback with its beauty and without fail is shocked they had not known about it or visited before. It doesn’t have a vast array of hotels because it is more of a day visit sort of place, it’s only the recent cycling tourism that has created a new form of visitor.

“With that tourism there is a changing of the café culture, with Christian Meier’s La Fabrica and Espresso Mafia [more on them below] leading the way. I moved here in 2006 and there were less than 10 professionals living here, legend goes there is over 100 living here now.”

Looks like there are lots of bike tour and rental options. We saw a company called Bike Cat. There were lots of bike tours, like this one,

competition · cycling

Undeniably Young

“In 1936, NORA YOUNG, a 19-year-old force of nature and multi-sport athlete, breaks into the wacky world of Six-Day biking in a historic women’s race. Will she win the race and change history?”

The plan is to make a short, animated film about Nora Young, Canadian cyclist, force of nature, and athletic pioneer.

The film maker Julia Morgan writes, “When I first met Nora, I knew right away there was something special about her. And as I got to know her more, I discovered that not only was she a force of nature with an incredible love of life, but she also had been a TOP athlete, in many sports, during something I’d never heard of – the Golden Age of Women’s Sports (1920s and 30s) in North America – of which Nora was an extremely important example. And then when my team and I began filming Nora – she was 95 – I was wowed by the sheer number of her amazing, historically significant athletic achievements, particularly in cycling, her favourite sport. She was one of Canada’s most important early female competitive cyclists – if not the most important. “

You can support the film project here.

And read more about it here: Toronto Star: Toronto’s audacious ‘girl cyclist’ left riders — and stereotypes — in the dust

NORA YOUNG, 1936, AGE 19

Public Domain. Credit: Estate of Nora Young/UndeniablyYoung.ca

eating · food

Trending now: plant-based eating

Image description: square plate with one ample vegan crab cake on it, with a dollop of white sauce and chopped green onions and a wedge of lemon the side. Photo credit and recipe: https://veganhuggs.com/vegan-crab-cakes/

There are lots of things to love about millenials and Gen-Zs, but one of the best is how they are demanding more meatless food options. An initiative to have 55% of food options involve plant-based proteins at my university by next fall recently made national news. See “Western University’s cafeteria food probably not what you ate in school.

We have a little restaurant on campus that serves really good food. But they don’t always have vegan options. They accommodate, but it’s not a default. And they are well aware that if they serve me one more veggie samosa (don’t get me wrong, the first hundred samosas were absolutely amazing! And I can enjoy them with enough time in between. But not every week, thanks anyway)…well, let’s just say I like variety as much as the next person and leave it at that. If I show up unannounced, they go into a tizzy (“you didn’t tell us you were coming!”). I like that they care. But I’d rather not create panic when I come with a group whose reservation is not under my name.

I know our Great Hall Catering can do it when called upon to do it. A while back, Sam and I co-organized a feminist philosophy conference and asked for the entire thing to have vegan catering. That meant all breaks, a lunch, a reception, and two dinners (including a fancy banquet). From the cashew cheese tray at the reception, to the make-your-own burrito bowl lunch, from the banquet dinner with actual real dessert (not a fruit tray!)…many attendees remarked that it was the best catering they’d ever had at a conference. But that was by special request. And it took some work with them (like I told them where to source the outstanding vegan cheese, for example, from the local company Nuts for Cheese). But once they got the hang of it, they ran with it.

Knowing this, I’m eager to see what they come up with as they revamp the food offerings on campus to offer more plant-based selections. I have long complained that amazing chefs at high end restaurants seem to be unable to grasp the idea of plant-based protein sources. As if a plate full of side dishes is actually satisfying. Tasty, perhaps, but satisfying and well-rounded. No. I have eaten many a side salad and baked potato for dinner while the rest of the party ate ample and (apparently) delicious meals that included protein as the main event.

Western has enlisted the help of a consulting company, Forward Food, to ensure that they do this right. It’s been a slow road, but I consider this a big win. And it’s all because of demand. Young people, like a good proportion of our student population of over 30,000, want plant-based options.

The prospect of having vegan options by default, not by special request, whenever I go to lunch on campus excites me. Contrary to what some may think and much as I appreciate that they know me and my needs at my favourite campus restaurant, I actually prefer not to be given “special” treatment. I would much rather just go have my lunch and be able to pick from a range of selections just like any other customer. I’ll be first in line for the veggie “crab” cakes.

Have you seen a shift in offerings over recent years at the food services outlets you frequent?

accessibility · aging · inclusiveness · injury · weight loss

Sam is checking in for February, #monthlycheckin, cw: mention of weight loss

Good news!

My knee survived a week in Europe with many days of mega steps. I paid a lot of attention to how it felt, wore the knee brace sometimes but not at others, took anti inflammatory medication regularly, and stretched lots. Sarah helped lots too.

Now that I’m back home physiotherapy continues, massage therapy continues, personal training continues, and I’m back to my bike on the trainer, bike commutes, and dog walks. All of that counts, except the massages, on my quest to workout 219 times in 2019.

I’m so happy to see all the hard work paying off.

Next up: NYC 5 Boro Bike Tour in May.

After that, lots and lots of training before our 10 day bike tour of Newfoundland in June.

Bad news!

Weight loss is hard. (We all know this.) You might think that if you had a serious medical reason to lose weight, then you’d do it. But your body doesn’t know your motives. It doesn’t care what your intentions are. It’s super hard.

Wish me luck.

eating · food · health

Sam Tries Cauliflower Crust Pizza and Doesn’t Die

Image description: A Cadbury creme egg against a blue background. There is text which reads, “Does anyone have a recipe for these using cauliflower?”

Making things with cauliflower as a substitute for various carbs is a thing. I think I first encountered it with cauliflower rice but since then it’s spread.

It’s especially hot with those following high fat, low carb diets. It’s also often taken to extremes, see the Cadbury creme egg joke above mocking the trend. And for those reasons I’ve avoided it.

Are you like that all? When people give reasons for a thing that you don’t agree with, you ignore the thing even if there are other reasons for trying it that might speak to you? I often have that reaction to food associated with extreme diets even if they’re foods I might actually like for reasons of taste and eating more veggies.

Sometimes however ignoring a thing because others like it for reasons you don’t agree with means missing out on something good.

I came across cauliflower crust pizza in the frozen pizza section of the grocery store. On sale. So I bought two. Verdict? Yum. I liked it. My mother liked it. Would definitely buy more. But the thing is it’s still grocery store frozen pizza. There’s only so good it can taste and only so good for you it can be.

Image description: pizza box which reads “pizza your favorite vegetable.”

It didn’t taste the same as crust made with flour but it was pretty yummy. I like cauliflower. I might even try making one at home. See the great picture below.

Here’s a recipe for a vegan version.

Have you tried it? What did you think of cauliflower pizza?

Image description: a Cauliflower Crust pizza with rainbow vegetables

body image · fitness

A tale of two bodies, or how (clothing) fit is a feminist issue

Content warning: first two paragraphs talk about weight loss. The rest of this post does not; instead it celebrates different size bodies. Yay!

Last Wednesday I blogged about losing a few pounds due to mild pancreatitis– I was off food for several days, only taking in clear liquids, then graduating to noodle soup and rice with broth. Now I’m feeling much much better, but eating a low-fat diet for a while, as my pancreas “needs to rest” (according to several doctors). Okay. But then my sickness-induced temporary weight loss provoked an instant “yay!” from me, followed by “hmmm, maybe now I’ll actually lose (fill in the blank) much weight.”

NO. This is my continued struggle with body image and self-acceptance talking. I wrote more about it here, and a number of you responded with lovely and supportive comments and similar stories of your own. I thank you all. It is so nice to know and feel that we are all in this together. Becoming aware of the self-defeating nature of such weight-loss-aspirational talk and naming it thusly helps a lot.

But just today, I thought of another way to promote my own body acceptance.

Enter my friend Rachel. She’s a lawyer, bike racer and dear friend of mine. Say hi to Rachel.

Rachel, with newly-highlighted light brown hair, wearing a black shirt with white and yellow stars, a black pleather skirt, black tights and black boots.

It turns out that she and I both own this exact outfit. Here’s me in mine.

Catherine, with dark brown hair, wearing a black shirt with white and yellow stars, a black pleather skirt, black tights and black boots.
Catherine, with dark brown hair, wearing a black shirt with white and yellow stars, a black pleather skirt, black tights and black boots.

The back story of the twin-outfits is that we both went to a clothing party (kind of like tupperware, but with clothing instead), and we ended up buying some of the same items. Our friend Michele has the pleather skirt too, but she was unavailable for the photo shoot.

I decided it might be fun to compare our two bodies in the same outfit, different sizes. I wear a size Extra Large, and Rachel wears a size Medium. Here we are together– don’t we look cute?

I think we look even cuter here, mugging for the camera (thanks Steph for taking these photos!)

Of course we need some cheesecake shots:

Last set of shots: we posed against a wall, affecting some emotion (or trying):

Here’s why I am showing all these pictures: Rachel and I have different bodies, and the same clothing fits us in different ways. I happen to think we both look smashing in our pleather skirts and starry shirts (with obligatory black tights and boots).

Different bodies, different fit, different sizes– both cute and fun and maybe-sexy and happy and comfortable. When I’m feeling bad about my body, maybe I should remember these pictures, and maybe even go to my closet and rock that pleather skirt. Because I do rock it. As does Rachel.