fitness · weight loss · weight stigma

Weight watchers is not kid stuff; what about other programs?

Since Weight Watches announced its program targeting teenagers, there’s been a flurry of posts here, chock-full of information and perspective.

One of Sam’s recent posts has (among other things) pointed to research on fat shaming. There are severely harmful physical and psychological effects of identifying children as fat (calling them fat or overweight, treating them as fat, subjecting them to dieting, etc.)   Enrolling a child in Weight Watchers is a guaranteed way to label them as fat.

While we’re talking about studies, the data on the long-term effectiveness of Weight Watchers (or any commercial diet program) is not promising.  A 2015 systematic review  of commercial diet programs suggests that, in the very short term (3-12 months, mostly 3—6 months), Weight Watchers might produce a slightly higher incidence of >5% body weight loss in some populations (all adult) than self-directed dieting, but in the longer term (>12 months), we either have no data, or the data show weight regains (and then some).

Tracy’s post on dieting and magical thinking really gets at the psychological pitfalls of yearning for some way to transform our and our children’s bodies into shapes and sizes that conform to medical guidelines and BMI charts.  It’s an illusion, one that does us and our children much harm.

So, taking Sam’s challenge to heart—if not weight watchers for children, then what?—I decided to look around town to see what programs were on offer.

As some of you know, I live in Boston, which is a very good place to be sick; we have highly-rated hospitals to treat whatever ails you.  I found out from my friend Janet, who’s a health care provider, about the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children’s Hospital.  It’s associated with (and I assume partly funded by) New Balance  (the athletic shoe manufacturer), which has a named Obesity Prevention Center and also sponsors the OWL program at Boston area community health centers.

The OWL program is for families who are worried about their children’s weight and risks for type 2 diabetes, or who have children with type 2 diabetes.  After doing a bunch of medical tests, the treatment services focus on nutritional counseling and individual behavior modification.  Some group therapy is offered, and follow up is required for at least 6 months.  They tend to favor a low-glycemic index diet (one of their directors is David Ludwig, who leads research investigating and has written popular books promoting low-glycemic index diets; look here  for research and here for popular books).

I have to say, I really like the approach they use in the OWL programs at community health centers.  Here’s what they do:

10-week comprehensive program that introduces families to healthful eating and supports them in making changes to benefit their entire family.  The program offers group and individual counseling and is led by a dietitian and psychologist from the OWL clinic.  Group discussions and interactive activities allow for peer support, skill building and knowledge sharing. 

The first six weeks are spent in a group format.  For the groups, parents and youth are separated and both groups discuss the same educational topic.  Following the educational intervention, the groups unite for a healthy meal and a question and answer session.  Each class concludes with a hands-on activity to reinforce the main messages.  Upon completion of the groups participants attend 2-4 weeks of individual counseling with the dietitian and psychologist to develop behavior change strategies to support individual goals. 

Through the program, patients learn:

  • How to shop for and prepare balanced meals and snacks
  • How sleep and screen time impact health
  • How small changes can be implemented to benefit the entire family
  • How to address body image and bullying

All of this sounds reasonable, comprehensive and evidence-based.  By the way, what’s good for the goslings is also good for those of us on the spectrum from geese to ganders—that is, adults can also use support around shopping, screens, sleep, small changes, body images and fat shaming/bullying/harassment.

But I don’t like the name of the program—Optimal Weight for Life.  Yeah, it’s cool to have OWL as your acronym.  You could give away T-shirts with owls on them, or maybe even have an owl-petting room at the hospital.  It’s already been done in Japan at this café, and I hear it’s popular.

Here are my three problems with the name OWL– Optimal Weight for Life:

1.Optimal.  Why do we have to be optimal? That’s a pretty high bar to set.  There are lots of reasons and causes for a child to be of non-optimal weight.  Maybe it’s not an optimal time in a kid’s development to be optimal.  I’m not a parent, but I have observed my niece’s and nephews’ growth patterns over time, and their sizes and shapes and heights don’t increase in perfect synchrony. It’s just not the way human growth works (as Sam pointed out about her own kids). Sometimes they are shorter and wider, and sometimes longer and narrower, and this varies over time and across people.

Also, who says that optimality should be the goal?  We know from epidemiological studies (and by looking around in the world) that there’s a range of body weights, shapes, sizes, influenced by a host of factors, many of which we have no control over.  What makes “optimal” optimal is presumably association of a class of body weights with lowered risk factors for disease; otherwise, this is just a matter of aesthetics/conventions, right?  When we dive deep into that data vortex, I argue that, given both the intractability of long-term weight loss and the small or nonexistent shifts in relative risk profiles that come with some weight changes, setting “optimal” weight as a general patient goal is both unrealistic and unnecessary.

2. Weight. Why do we have to focus on weight? Why not health? There are lots of metrics that track health quite well, and weight is arguably not one of them. Yes, this is a contested position, but it’s held by lots of medical and public health experts.  Physical activity happens to be one of those metrics.  See here for results of a very large European study showing strong association between even small increases in physical activity and lowered all-cause mortality risk.

3. For Life. That sounds scary to me. Why?  Because it seems controlling, demanding, and not understanding about the ups and downs of our experiences through the life trajectory.  There are going to be times in every child’s life when their physical state will be non-optimal.  This is not a cause for panic, and it may not even indicate that anything is wrong. So, setting people up with this humongous and unrealistic (yes, I said that before—it’s still true) goal is not very nice and not, uh, well, realistic.

We’ve got a lot to learn about how to help people identify, move toward and find some stability around health-according-to-them.  Owls are a great symbol, but how about we go with more variation, in keeping with our own glorious variation?  I have something like this in mind, but need help with names/acronyms.  Any thoughts?

Animated brightly colored animals of all types, shapes and sizes.


fitness · weight stigma

Is the end in sight for headless fatty photos? Here’s a glimmer of hope

We see them all the time:  media depictions of fat people minus their heads, commonly called the “headless fatty” photo.  I won’t post any, but you can see a google images collection of them here.

What’s the problem with these pictures?  They portray fat people not as people, but as objects– objects of ridicule, disgust, pity and contempt.  These are strong words, but apt.

And, it turns out, a recent article from the Lancet agrees with me (thanks, Sam, for sending it).   The authors call out popular media outlets for publishing articles with derogatory and inaccurate content about body weight and those with larger bodies:

The media portrayal of obesity—often stigmatising and inaccurate… is influential, and insidious to popular belief. Yet publishers and editors rarely challenge this media content, and so a stream of derogatory articles floods into mainstream media.

They cite a number of articles as examples of what they consider irresponsible journalism, some with mocking and hate-mongering tones.  We’ve all seen these sorts of stories– again, I won’t link to or quote any, but they engage in criticism of larger bodies and also make judgments about what the responsibilities of larger-bodied persons are (namely to lose weight as fast as possible to ease the burdens they create for society).

Yes, yes, we know all this.  But what can be done about it?  Here are their suggestions:

  • Adhere to the national journalism societies such as the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics,10 which states that journalists should avoid stereotyping and examine the ways in which their values might shape their reporting, and the National Union of Journalists code of conduct,11 which emphasises that journalists should not produce material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination;
  • Accurately portray obesity;
  • Refrain from publishing articles that stigmatise and discriminate against people with obesity;
  • Use non-stigmatising images when reporting on obesity;
  • Take the opportunity—where stigma and discrimination are reported—to condemn such behaviour, as has been done for other topics (eg, mental health).

These proposed guidelines do a very good job of making this clear: many stories and articles about health, illness and body weight are written in ways that do the following:

  • they stigmatize larger bodies (I no longer use the o-word if I can avoid it);
  • they are used to perpetuate discrimination against and condescension towards those with larger bodies;
  • they use images of parts of bodies, disconnected from people or contexts in which they live, for shock and amusement;
  • this type of reporting promotes hatred of fat people.

Hatred– this is a very strong word, too.  I’ve been thinking lately about fat-shaming and fat-stigmatizing and its connections to hate speech.  Hate speech is not an area I know much about academically, but I’m starting work on a project with a friend investigating the relationships between the forms of weight stigmatizing speech and more traditional forms of hate speech.  I’ll be reporting on our progress here, and will welcome your responses, as always.

I’m heartened by this article, which calls weight stigmatizing articles as they see them:  discriminatory, inaccurate, and hateful.  Thanks, authors.  Thanks, Lancet, for publishing it.  And thanks, readers, for reading.



cycling · fitness

Small pleasures in journey and destination

This week I was in Tucson, AZ on vacation with friends.  It was marvelous– we cycled, hiked/walked, took in urban and desert sights, and enjoyed as much delicious Mexican food as we had time and appetites for.

We saw marvelous things:  we did a mural ride through downtown Tucson, and saw 20+ depictions of community, fantasy, politics and the future.  Here are just a few of them:

Mural of a woman with white skin, black hair, and a red mask.
Mural of brightly colored images of indigenous people and nature symbols
Mural saying “Greetings from Tucson” with four bikes in front.
Mural of a woman with cactus hair and cacti around her

We went to the desert museum and Catalina State Park, and saw stunning nature.  I posted about it here.

But one of the things I like best about cycling in a new place is the low-key and unexpected sights I encounter while just noodling around.  I went on a ride down the Loop (a 60+ mile system of bike paths) by myself one day, and I found this quirky little park called Pima Prickly Park.

A blue sign indicating Pima Prickly Park.
A blue sign indicating Pima Prickly Park.

What is this place?  Well, it’s kind of a home for misfit cacti.  The Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society arranges with commercial constructions projects around Tucson to go in before a site is bulldozed, and they try to save all the cactus and succulent plants they can.  Check out more details here.  Then they take them to this site for replanting.  They’ve created a public park, with gravel routes through the seven acre site.  Here are a few pictures of what the all-volunteer crew has done with this place, which used to be a landfill:

There was a volunteer doing some watering, and she told me all about the place.  Looking around, it’s clear that a lot of love and dedication went into making this little park.  Here’s a nice place to sit and contemplate:

An area of the park with a bench, a birdbath, and various cacti and bushes.

All of this was tucked away, just off the bike path I had been riding.  Had I not noticed a bunch of cacti that looked rather organized behind a fence, I wouldn’t have gone to investigate.  But I did, and got to enjoy the fruits of local environmentalists’ labor.

Have you gone on a walk, run, ride, paddle, etc. and run into an unexpected treasure of a place or sight?  I’d love to hear from you.

fitness · hiking

Change of scene: moving through the desert in Tucson, AZ

This week is spring break at my university, which means I am either 1) somewhere warm; or 2) complaining about not being somewhere warm.  Happily for me (and the people around me), this year my friends Kathy and Janet and Steph and I made plans for biking and hiking/walking around in Tucson, Arizona.  Our plan also includes eating as much Mexican food as possible during the trip (this was my additional requirement).

I was supposed to arrive in Tucson last Friday, but a nor’easter changed my plans; I got here Monday instead.  No matter– I’m here now!

Tuesday was desert walking day.  Every time I come to a desert landscape I am completely taken by its beauty and otherness.  As a person raised in woodsy, swampy flat southeastern landscapes and who lives in woodsy rocky coastal New England, the southwestern desert is otherworldly.  And I’m also surprised by how varied it is.  You will see this for yourselves below.

Tuesday morning we went to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum.  It includes lots of indoor exhibits about the history, geology, flora and fauna of the area over time.  However, most of its loveliness is outdoors– there’s a circuit of walks with info posted about plants and animals.  At the start, we were greeted with this:

yellow sign saying "warning!" and "welcome" (with a red line through it)
yellow sign saying “warning!” and “welcome” (with a red line through it)

I’d call that a mixed message– which is it, people?  The point of the sign is to remind us that the desert is hot, dry, and contains plenty of prickly and potentially hazardous things.  We should be careful.  Okay, got it.  And yes, I’m wearing sunscreen, sensible shoes and a hat.  Ready to proceed.

It’s not yet peak desert flower season, but there were some blooms to enjoy.

We saw a huge variety of agave, cactus, aloe and other plants. I mean huge.  There was hedgehog agave (Steph’s favorite), bonker hedgehog agave (nothing to add here), and my favorite, octopus agave.

An octopus agave, with multiple (actually, more than 8) green large curving tendrils.
An octopus agave, with multiple (actually, more than 8) green large curving tendrils.


We saw this intriguing sign:

Sign saying "raptor free flight"
Sign saying “raptor free flight”

There was some discussion about what that sign could mean.  Steph thought it was advertising free flights, courtesy of raptors; maybe we could just grab some talons and hang on.  I was wondering if it was a chance to fly with no raptors around.

We strolled, pointed at things, shared and compared our preferences, and took loads of pictures for a few sunny hours.  Being outside in short-sleeves at this time of year is such a privilege and a pleasure.

After leaving the museum to have a late picnic lunch, we drove over Gates Pass, a very scenic spot and well-known cycling climbing route in the area.  Here’s a view from one of the overlooks:

The side of a mountain, dotted with Saguaro cacti, at Gates Pass near Tucson.
The side of a mountain, dotted with Saguaro cacti, at Gates Pass near Tucson.

Then we headed over to Catalina State Park.  It has a very different desert profile.  We took a couple of easy loops (the trails vary from short easy stroll to long arduous climb).  Here’s a view along one of them:

A stand of majestic saguaro cactus against blue sky, on a hillside in Catalina State Park.
A stand of majestic saguaro cactus against blue sky, on a hillside in Catalina State Park.

I kept exclaiming, “this is so beautiful!”, at regular intervals, stopping to take pictures throughout our walks.  My friends were patient, but I believe wanted to get a move on at some point.

Steph, Janet, and Kathy, hands on hips, waiting on the trail for me.
Steph, Janet, and Kathy, hands on hips, waiting on the trail for me.

On the other side of the main road, we took the birding loop, and we were greeted with lots of unexpected greenery.  It had rained the week before, and the desert eagerly put on a show of color.

Walking through a woodsy, green area, headed up to more desert views.
Walking through a woodsy, green area, headed up to more desert views.

And we were not disappointed when we got there:

View of the Catalina mountains, with cactus and scrub bush in the foreground.
View of the Catalina mountains, with cactus and scrub bush in the foreground.

Today I turn to the bike– there is a 60+ mile system of bike paths around Tucson, and I’m off to explore.  We have cycling fun planned for the rest of the trip.  But it was nice to ease into movement on foot.

Readers, do you like multiple modes of activity and exploration when you go to a new or different place?  Or do you stick to one favorite form of transport?  I’d love to hear from you.



diets · fitness

Looking for the “best” diet? US News and World Report will tell you…

I just found out this week that US News and World Report, the now-online-only news magazine that ranks everything from universities to hospitals to cruises (I’m not kidding–check out your cruise rankings here), has also been in the diet ranking business for the past 8 years.  Where have I been all this time?

sign post saying "over there", "nowhere", "distant", etc.
sign post saying “over there”, “nowhere”, “distant”, etc.

Well, even though I’m late to this party, I decided to dive in and see what was up (I’m leaving the very mixed metaphors in for flavor).  Warning: their diet rankings page, found here, can send you down the internet rabbit hole.  I started nosing around, and before I knew it, two hours had passed.  Yes, it was like this:

A drawing of a person at a desktop computer with their face stuck in the monitor screen.
A drawing of a person at a desktop computer with their face stuck in the monitor screen.

But I did find out some interesting things, which I will now share with you.  I’ll put them in the form of an FAQ:

  1. How did US News and World Report go about ranking diets?

Here’s what they said:

To create the eighth annual rankings, U.S. News editors and reporters spent months winnowing potential additions to our diet roster and then mining medical journals, government reports and other resources to create in-depth profiles for those that made the cut.

Yeah. I’m sure they spent a bunch of time on this.  But I don’t know what an “in-depth profile” is.  It is almost certainly not something that meets scientific standards, which is a meta-analysis.

What’s that?  Here’s Wikipedia:

Conceptually, a meta-analysis uses a statistical approach to combine the results from multiple studies in an effort to increase power (over individual studies), improve estimates of the size of the effect and/or to resolve uncertainty when reports disagree.

Want more detail?  Here’s more precise info from a medical journal discussion on meta-analysis:

Meta-analysis is a quantitative, formal, epidemiological study design used to systematically assess previous research studies to derive conclusions about that body of research.

Outcomes from a meta-analysis may include a more precise estimate of the effect of treatment or risk factor for disease, or other outcomes, than any individual study contributing to the pooled analysis.

The examination of variability or heterogeneity in study results is also a critical outcome. 

The benefits of meta-analysis include a consolidated and quantitative review of a large, and often complex, sometimes apparently conflicting, body of literature.

The upshot of the above is this: if we really want to know the answer to a scientifically complicated question like “which diet is the best for X”, and we know that many scientists have explored this question from many angles, getting many different answers to parts of this question, then we need a systematic way to analyze all those studies and combine them to try to get a coherent and reliable answer to this complicated question.  It is not a foregone conclusion that doing a meta-analysis will end up yielding either a coherent or reliable answer.  The data may be too conflicting, or there may be gaps where we don’t know enough, so we can’t draw conclusions.  This is all useful for researchers, as it points to areas for further study.  However, it may or may not help clinicians who want answers for their patients, or the rest of us, who just want answers.

2.  Wait a minute– they didn’t consult actual experts in medicine, nutrition, etc.?  How can they assess loads of technical scientific information without help?

Here’s what they said:

A panel of nationally recognized experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease reviewed our profiles, added their own fact-finding and rated each diet in seven categories: how easy it is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease. We also asked the panelists to let us know about aspects of each diet they particularly liked or disliked and to weigh in with tidbits of advice that someone considering a particular diet should know.

Yeah, let me unpack this for you.  US News and World Report gathered together a panel, which includes clinical practitioners in medicine and nutrition, some diet book writers, directors of clinical programs for diabetes, heart disease, etc., and researchers and clinicians in academic medicine.  Some of these folks have a particular diet they’re promoting, and others are very busy either running a medical center or doing research and running a lab.

At best, some of these panelists read the pre-prepared packets of material on various popular diet plans (like the Mediterranean Diet or the DASH Diet) and offered their best guesses, based on their areas of expertise.  More likely, the busiest experts farmed this task out to grad students or research assistants, which is legitimate and common practice.

3. So far, all this sounds okay.  What’s the problem?

Remember what I wrote (which you may have skimmed over, which is perfectly fine) about meta-analysis?  I said that to assess a program like a diet, you have to do very fancy statistical work on dozens–hundreds of studies on that program or diet.  It takes a lot of time and brain power and qualified people, and results in a journal article.  US News and World Report couldn’t do this, and the expert panels didn’t do this.  So they’re just doing the equivalent of throwing darts at a dart board, in my opinion.

Darts in the air on their way to a dart board.
Darts in the air on their way to a dart board.

This procedure is not the way I would choose to make decisions about my health.

There’s more to say (as always), but I’ll leave it at this:  don’t let the people who advise you about what cruise to take also tell you how to eat in order to deal with your diabetes.  Just sayin’.


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.



Resting, recovering and incredibly impatient

R&R– rest and relaxation.  These words are designed to provoke an “aaahhhhh” from all of us.  We work hard all the time, juggling work, family, friends, money, home, etc.  Like so:

A woman in a suit juggling animated laptop, alarm clock, baby bottle, cell phone and home.
A woman in a suit juggling animated laptop, alarm clock, baby bottle, cell phone and home.

What do we yearn for?  R&R.  Rest and relaxation.  Just saying it can make us breathe easier.  Try it now, and to help even more, look at this picture:

Two wooden chaise lounges on a white sandy beach.
Two wooden chaise lounges on a white sandy beach.

For me lately, though, R&R has meant rest and recovery.  Maybe this sounds good too– after all, recovery is a hopeful word and optimistic process.  I posted about having gotten pneumonia at the beginning of January.  I rested a ton– there was really no choice, as I was flattened– but then started my teaching semester.  I tried to take it easy and rest for a while.  But then I was ready to resume my regular schedule of (among other things) exercise, training for cycling, occasionally vigorous yoga, and cross country skiing when the conditions cooperated.

Well, no.  That just hasn’t happened.  I’ve found myself repeating the following cycle:

  1. becoming bored and frustrated with not doing much physically and doing less socially;
  2. forcing myself to do a regular schedule one day with teaching, errands, maybe a yoga class or other physical activity, or an evening social event;
  3. feeling completely exhausted from that one so-called regular day;
  4. noticing my cough coming back and blaming myself and the world for feeling sick still/again;
  5. canceling whatever social or physical activities I had optimistically planned for the next few days;
  6. resigning myself to resting a while longer.

Last week this happened.  It was a relatively warm day last week, and I decided to ride my Brompton to an appointment that was a 20-minute ride away.  Easy-peasy.  Uh, no.  5 minutes in I started coughing.  I should’ve turned around.  But I stuck it out.  When I got to my meeting, I coughed for the next 25 minutes.  My friend said, maybe you should take an Uber/Lyft home.  I agreed.  But did I?  No.  I thought, it’s only 20 minutes– I’ll ride slowly.  Bad idea!  I felt horrible and had to cancel more events I had planned.

Today is a beautiful unseasonably warm day in February here in Boston.  I’m feeling really antsy and ready to get out there on my bike.  I had tentatively planned to cycle with my friend Pata.  However I’m going to wait just a bit longer.  I’m still coughing, so this time I’ll do a nice walk.  It’s not as fun for me as cycling, but I need a little more recovery time.

Argh.  Sigh.  Hmmmphf.

Sign saying patience is a virtue. It's just not one of MY virtues. A woman is sitting in a long dress on a couch next to it.