Big Fit Girl, a book our readers will love

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In Big Fit Girl Louise Green shares her fitness journey, advocates for a size inclusive fitness culture, and offers practical tips for getting started. Green is a plus sized athlete–a former runner and now boxer–and a personal trainer based in Vancouver. She personally got beyond thinking of exercise as thing one does to get thin, adopted an active lifestyle without a focus on the scale, and is now keen to spread the word.

More than 2/3 of women wear size 14 or larger yet our images of the fit, active person are inevitably of someone lean and small. Green started her fitness journey with a 5 km running program and along the way discovered all sorts of advantages to an active lifestyle that have nothing to do with losing weight. Green writes, “To weather the peaks, valleys, and plateaus of your athletic journey, you must base your success on more than just the numbers on the scale.  You are in this for the long-term, and exercise has many benefits that have nothing to do with what you weigh.”

Green’s book celebrates the plus sized active woman and encourages everyone, regardless of size, to find the active thing they love. Green writes, “Whether you are an avid walker, a triathlete, a ballroom dancer or an Olympic weightlifter, or if you aspire to be all those things and more, your presence  as a plus size woman working out in our society is creating a much needed shift. And because we don’t see women of size as much as we need to in advertising, television, movies, or other media, it’s up to us–you and me–to inspire others to join our ranks.”

The book is a combination of personal narrative, practical fitness and nutrition advice, inspirational messages and stories from larger women athletes, and body positive cultural critique and analysis. In fact, Green’s message fits in well with the message of inclusive fitness we try to share here on this blog. It’s fair to say that if you like our blog, you’ll like Green’s book.

One worry–and it’s a worry I share about my own writing– is that Green, like me, is at the bottom end of what counts as plus sized. Yes, we both have weights that fall outside the kind of normative thinness praised in contemporary North American culture. But we’re both the kind of big that when people talk about “fat women” in disparaging terms, they’re going to say to us, “Oh, I didn’t mean you.” Why does that matter? I wonder and worry about this a lot when I decide to count myself in, or not, in various fat positive circles. It does mean that some barriers that larger plus size women face won’t be ones that we confront.

Some larger women may say, “oh, it’s fine for you but I couldn’t do that.” Some of the obstacles in terms of finding gear, finding a sympathetic coach, and facing scorn may be much higher.

I also worry about a body positivity that is based on the athletic potential of larger women. Our bodies are worth love and respect even if we don’t work out, and don’t have health as a goal.

But these are small worries about a wonderful book.

And hey, we’ve featured Louise Green before on the blog. See (Updated) Plus sized endurance athletes, we exist!

Canadian Running reviewed her book here.

Fit and Feminist reviews it here.

Oh, and here’s her TED Talk, Limitless: Let’s Think Again about Athleticism:

You can read more about the book in this CBC profile, ‘Big Fit Girl’ challenges body stereotypes with new book. Refinery 29 also reviews it, Lies The Fitness Industry Tells Plus-Size Women.

Big Fit Girl is published by Greystone Books. They’re also publishing our book  Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey in spring 2018. Maybe we’ll meet up with Louise on the book tour circuit and go workout together. I’d like that!

You can order the book from Greystone here.

And here’s what they’ve got to say about it:

In this kick-ass call to arms, Louise Green describes how the fitness industry fails to meet the needs of plus-size women and thus prevents them from improving their health. By sharing her own story of how she stopped dieting, got off the couch, and got fit, Green inspires other plus-size women to do the same. She provides concrete advice about how to get started, how to establish a support team, how to choose an activity, how to set goals, what kind of clothing and gear work best for the plus-size athlete, and how to improve one’s relationship with food. She also showcases similar stories from other women.

LOUISE GREEN is a plus-size athlete, a personal trainer, and the founder of Body Exchange, a plus-size fitness boot camp with seven locations in Canada. She has written for numerous publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the Daily Mail, Glamour, and the Huffington Post, among others. She lives in North Vancouver, B.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GapFit, wtf? (Also, nice work REI)

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A blog reader emailed me this ad and asked if I’d seen it and what I thought of it.

I have to confess it took me a few minutes to parse what it might actually be saying. Why do 100 squats if our tights make you look like you’ve done 100 squats when you’ve only done 20? That’s 80 extra squats.

BUT ONLY IF YOU JUST CARE ABOUT SQUATS BECAUSE OF THE WAY YOU LOOK IN FITTED ATHLETIC WEAR!

We’re all about athletic rather than aesthetic values here. Presumably the Gap tights don’t make you fitter or stronger. Or even if they do, as one of our Facebook readers asked, what happens when you take them off? You’re all of a sudden only 20 squats strong again.

Over on our Facebook page, no one was having it.

Sandi says, “So what happens when I take off the pants? Do I have an ass that looks like I’m 80 squats short? And how will the pants actually help my sportzing? Will they help me lift heavier?”

One reader said the contrast between this campaign and REI’s Force of Nature ads was striking. I looked and they’re right. I love this imagery and messaging.

Thanks REI.

My mother the cyclist!

Regular readers of the blog know that I’m part of a family of cyclists. My daughter Mallory and I ride together a lot. See here for our most recent adventure. But I didn’t know that my mother, Kathleen Brennan, rode a bike as a child.

It’s not that she’s never ridden a bike. She did ride my old bike for awhile as a grandmother caring for grandchildren when my sons were riding bikes to school and needed accompaniment. My mum took care our kids while Jeff and I both worked from the time our third child was born. So I have seen her on a bike. It’s just that I’ve never thought of her as having a bike riding past.

I made the discovery about my mother’s bike riding past this week when we had a basement flood. Boxes of old family photos were in the basement and Facebook friends know that we’ve been traveling down memory lane a bit. I keep taking pictures of photos and sharing them in Facebook albums (with family members’ permission, of course) before they dry all curled up. Our houses are interesting places to be right now as the old photos are being laid out on all flat surfaces everywhere to dry.

It turns out that my mum got her bike Christmas when she was 10. She lived in small town northern England, in Lancashire that’s part of a cluster of connected towns and communities–Colne, Nelson, Barrowford, Brierfield, and Burnley.

The photo below is from her school’s Bike Safety Rally in 1954 when she was 12. Notice the lack of helmets. But I love the smiling faces and her basket!

That’s my mother, Kathleen, on the far left.

I asked her some questions about riding a bike: Did she remember riding? Did she like it? Was safety a big deal for kids who ride the way it is now? Why did she stop?

Here are some of her replies, “Yes, I remember riding my bike. It gave me a certain amount of freedom. It was a big deal when I got the bike as it was new, a Christmas present. I remember being so excited as there wasn’t any snow and I could use it that day. No, I don’t think safety was as big an issue. We had the safety rally at school but I don’t remember getting much in the way of advice from parents as neither of them rode a bike that I know. Also, we never really had to use the main road, so many small local streets you could get into Nelson easily. I used to go to the library for me and Dad. I think there was equal riding for both girls and boys. I loved riding and for a while went to work by bike then I changed jobs and went by bus. I think I stopped riding when your Dad came on the scene. He had a motor cross motor bike and we used to go to rallies.”

Thanks Mum!

Spinning in the cold and the dark in Nathan Phillips Square, #thirty4thirty

Sarah and I had signed up for the 10 pm shift. It seemed like a better idea in the light and warmth of the day but we had dinner plans with a friend early in the evening.

We were ready to ride bikes on trainers in Nathan Phillips Square for an hour at the time I normally like to be settling down to sleep.  I knew my FitBit would scold me. Cate did too. Also, we were riding in a temperature that better matched warm blankets than outdoor exercise.

Why? We were part of the bike rally’s thirty4thirty spin-a-thon.

THIRTY 4 THIRTY SPIN-A-THON

“PWA’s Friends For Life Bike Rally will be honouring PWA’s 30th anniversary with a 30-hour “spin-a-thon.” It will be 30 hours for 30 years – that’s where “Thirty 4 Thirty” comes from. We’ll continually ride bikes on trainers, recruit, fundraise, and engage with the media, all with the Toronto sign and the reflecting pool right behind us. Through coordination with City Hall and the media, we’re arranging quite a bit of activity, building towards a major media event at 12 noon on Tuesday, April 25.

During the 30 hours, we’ll be telling the story of the 30 years of PWA and the nearly 20 years of the Bike Rally in the context of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its effects on Toronto. We’ll do that through visual presentations, speakers, and special-guest spin volunteers.

We’ll also have incredible support from local bike shops, notably , who will be operating “pop-in tune-up” tents for commuter cyclists to get a quick tune-up or ask any bike maintenance, equipment, or sales questions.

This is an incredible opportunity to share the story of the Bike Rally and PWA broadly, and we’re very, very excited. Together, we can create an amazing event, attract more Participants, and raise more money.”

So yes it was cold and dark and past my bedtime. Yes, riding someone else’s bike on trainer without my clip in shoes had its challenges. But we got to chat with lots of people who stopped by to a)tell us that the Raptors won, and b)ask what we were up to and why. It felt really good to tell the story. It was also really nice to reconnect with the bike rally community of cyclists and support people.

And you’re part of that extended community too, blog readers who read about the bike rally, sponsor me, and in many other ways support my big summer ride.

You can sponsor me here. Thanks. I really appreciate it.

I also stopped by for the last hour, hour 30, to show support for people who’d be riding in the very hard rain all morning. Here we are, smiling but also cold and wet.

​No alcohol for 40 days: Facebook challenge turns into major lifestyle change (Guest post)

Image description: A pint of Guinness

Image description: A pint of Guinness

Hi, my name is Muriel, and I no longer drink.

It started simply enough. A friend said on Facebook in late February that he was looking to give up something for Lent. I suggested, somewhat casually, that we give up drinking. No alcohol for 40 days and 40 nights. It meant saying goodbye to a big part of my life, at least temporarily. My friend agreed. And so, two days later on March 1st, my new life as a church lady began.

Now, Lent is over, Easter Sunday has come and gone, Christ has risen from dead, and I am still not drinking.

I have decided not to drink for many reasons. Although it started simply, the origins of my drinking problem are not really simple at all, and the results, so far anyway, are startling. There is nothing like being clear-eyed and bushy-tailed every single day.

When I finally stopped, I had been drinking four nights out of seven. And I did not consider myself to be an alcoholic or to have a serious drinking problem or even to have much of a problem at all. But I did many stupid things while under the influence, including angry texting and emailing in response to conflict, and I lost a few friends along the way. It had became too much of a price to pay.

Image description: A table in a bar. On the table there are beer bottles and cans and glasses of beer.

Image description: A table in a bar. On the table there are beer bottles and cans and glasses of beer.

Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health makes a distinction between physical dependence on alcohol and problem drinking. It says of the latter: “This term describes alcohol use that causes problems in a person’s life, but does not include physical dependence.” Such dependence involves tolerance to the effects of alcohol and withdrawal symptoms when a person stops. I am not physically dependent, thank god.

A big part of the decision had to do with health. When I announced to my doctor that I had quit, she was all smiles. She said about drinking: “Medical research definitely shows that more than one glass of a day for women is associated with a higher incidence of heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, stroke and breast cancer.”

I had chosen health.

I also, I must admit, wanted to lose weight. And it has been a miracle of sorts. Though I don’t weigh any less, I feel lighter.

It just seemed to me not to make sense to sweat doing Zumba for an hour, tire myself out while line dancing for another hour, stretch my endurance while swimming for more than 20 minutes, in one week, only to throw all that effort away by sitting in a bar for a few hours and getting bloated from drinking Guinness.

I think, in retrospect, I drank because I was angry, stressed and sad. I needed to blur the edges of the day.

I would always have a glass of wine on Tuesdays, which is actually my Fridays, since I work weekends. On Wednesdays, I would go to the nearby Irish pub for takeout, and while I waited for my wings, I would have a Guinness. Thursday was and is my big night to go out, so I would drink then too. Then on Friday and Saturday nights, I would drink, because, you know, it was Friday and Saturday night. Any excuse, any day of the week, would do.

I drank everything from Guinness to Pinot Grigio, rum and coke on the rocks to gin and tonic on the rocks, Coors Light when there was nothing else around, bottles of homemade peach wine with my Newfie friends, and maybe even the odd shot of Tequila Rose.

Being angry comes from being a woman in my 50s and divorced. Being stressed comes from working in the media and struggling financially as a single parent of young adult children. Being sad comes from having lost my father in October 2011, who had faith in me, and having a mother, 90, who is suffering from dementia. It also comes from not being where I want to be at this point in my life. And it comes from having lost friends.

I have been told that I have “a complex history of grief and loss.”

Late last year, I was kicked out of a single moms group I called the cabal. We had been getting together every few months for the past 10 years. One member decided she didn’t like me anymore. A dog walker, she convinced the others to exclude me from the pack. It hurt and it felt like grade nine all over again. I meant to ignore this unwelcome development, but after a night in the bar, I told her and the two others in the group by email exactly how I felt. The dog walker responded by sending me an open letter to my therapist to explain her side of the story. In the end, I lost three friends in one go, and this was my rock bottom.

I do think, when people are unkind, it’s best to walk away, but there’s no walking away when you’ve been drinking.

Yes, life is not easy, and we all have problems.

Drinking, however, is not the answer. And not drinking means: I no longer wake up with hangover. I am calmer. My thinking is not disordered by alcohol. I am much more aware of what is going in my life and around me. I am an introvert and drinking helped me be more of an extrovert. Now, without the booze, I need more down time because there is nothing blocking the stimulating world outside. There is also no filter between me and my feelings, and now when I am sad, I am really sad. The feelings are intense. It can feel like the end of the world, if only for a few moments.

But overall, I feel better. I am alive. And I am less angry. Imagine that.
And although our society is awash in alcohol, and people my age drink when they socialize, and I am aware of who is knocking it back around me, I have chosen not to be a part of all that. They say older women are the new hard drinkers. In my case, I was headed down that road. But sobriety is my path now.

There are lots of things to drink and they don’t need to contain alcohol.

God has granted me some “serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, wisdom to know the difference.” Now, I am trying to be brave, and I am happy with the new me.

Image description:A headshot of Muriel, a white woman in her early 50s, photographed against a set of silver gym lockers. Muriel is smiling and wearing white swim goggles on her forehead.

Image description:A headshot of Muriel, photographed against a set of silver gym lockers. Muriel is smiling and wearing white swim goggles on her forehead.

Muriel Draaisma is a mother, dog owner and an online news reporter with CBC Toronto.

Spring on the Leslie Street Spit!

It’s spring! There’s light in the evenings and it’s warm enough to ride. After a rainy day Wednesday the skies cleared and so after work Sarah and I scarfed down some post work crackers and cheese and got out our bikes. We did a short loop out to the end of the Leslie Street Spit. I’ve blogged about the area before.

There’s a lot of wildlife. So many birds. And there are signs that say, “Please brake for snakes.”

Look, here’s a bunny! (There were lots of bunnies.)

Mandatory selfie with CN Tower in the background.

Me pouting about the 20 km/hr speed limits for bikes!

Oh, and you can watch our ride here: https://www.relive.cc/view/949656485

Feminism, embodiment, and fighting back: All our posts on self-defense in one place

Self defense is a feminist issue (Sam)

Study shows self defense makes a difference but the issues are still complicated (Sam)

Self Defense and Sexual Assault (Audrey Yap)

The therapeutic value of feminist self-defense, part 1 and Part 2 (Grayson Hunt)

What (Feminist) Self-Defense Courses Can Do (Guest Post) (Ann Cahill)

Edith Garrud: The suffaragette who knew jiu-jitsu (Sam)

Why is it so hard to kia? (Sam)

Aikido: Touch me without consent and your first lesson is free (Sam)

Touch me/Don’t touch me: Bodies, boundaries, and non-sexual physical intimacy (Sam)