addiction · advertising · alcohol · fitness · Martha's Musings

What’s wine got to do with it?

by MarthaFitat55

As someone who has been exploring different ways to be fit, healthy, and happy,  the question of alcohol comes up often.

Usually the question from the fitness point of view focuses on the calories in alcohol or avoiding overindulgence vis a vis athletic performance.  When it comes to health, the issue is more about consuming too much alcohol.

Two articles of late have been making the rounds on my news feeds. The first one surveys the literature on alcohol and its link to cancer. Mother Jones writer Stephanie Mencimer began looking at this link after her own diagnosis of breast cancer even though she didn’t fit the profile as someone at risk for cancer.

The article is extensive and covers a lot of ground,  but what leapt out at me was data on women’s drinking generally. As a rule, Mencimer reported, women don’t drink a lot. But that is changing, and rapidly, because of concerted marketing campaigns pitching drinking to women: “Ads and products now push alcohol as a salve for the highly stressed American woman. There are wines called Mother’s Little Helper, Happy Bitch, Mad Housewife, and Relax. Her Spirit vodka comes with swag emblazoned with girl-power slogans like “Drink responsibly. Dream recklessly.”

But it isn’t just ads selling specific types of alcohol. There’s a whole bunch of memes and cartoons online and on clothing doing this. Consider this popular image and concept. The image shows two women running. One woman tells the other her fitness tracker calculates how many glasses of wine they have earned  through exercising.


The image equates exercise as a means to earn food or drink rewards. Run five miles you get a glass of wine; run ten miles and you get two.

That’s not how exercise works, and yet the message is seen as lighthearted and true. It doesn’t work if you think of two men running and saying it calculates how many beer you can have.

Then there’s this one:


With this meme, readers who are watching their weight are advised to sublimate food cravings by drinking wine. It goes further to suggest that thirst can only be quenched by alcohol.

I find this one really bothersome because the idea of moderation is dismissed out of hand. Forget having a glass of wine, drink the whole bottle. As for seeing how you feel, I doubt anyone who has drunk a whole bottle by themselves has the capacity to engage in any deep thinking.

Then there’s the marketing push from stories like this one on farm fresh vodka (made with kale!) and the latest marathon fad which includes 23 stops for wine.

I think though the worst idea for drinking came from a fitness apparel line:


We’ve come along way since Mick Jagger sang about Mother’s Little Helper (Where’s the sarcasm emojii when you need it?). There’s so much wrong with this I’m not sure where to start.

Perhaps it’s the idea that a strong woman needs help with parenting a strong girl. While parenting help is often undersold, are girl children that problematic that even a strong woman can’t cope? Or is it that the only way to cope is to indulge in strong drink (usually meaning hard liquor)?

I prefer my strength to come from lifting weights and from focusing on the ways I can cultivate resilience rather than on relying on drink to give me strength to face the challenges I have.

These memes are often shared because people find them funny but in fact, they normalize excessive drinking. Let’s take a look at what that is.

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines heavy drinking as more than four drinks on any day or 14 per week for men and more than three drinks on any day or seven per week for women.

Health Canada defines low risk drinking as “no more than two drinks a day, 10 per week for women, and three drinks a day, 15 per week for men, with an extra drink allowed on special occasions.”

But limits aren’t that simple. The second article I read this week focused on the life-shortening effects of alcohol. The article reported on new research which found “people who drank the equivalent of about five to 10 drinks a week could shorten their lives by up to six months.” 

It gets worse: “The study of 600,000 drinkers estimated that having 10 to 15 alcoholic drinks every week could shorten a person’s life by between one and two years. And they warned that people who drink more than 18 drinks a week could lose four to five years of their lives.”

Contrary to those memes, the research supports a new limit for light drinking or for encouraging abstinence from alcohol completely if one wants to pursue a healthier and happier life.

— Martha Muzychka is a writer getting her fit on in St. Johns.


advertising · body image · eating disorders · fitness · gender policing · media · objectification · sex

Really, Walmart? Really?

I don’t love Walmart. I don’t love Cosmo Magazine. I really don’t love what Walmart has done with Cosmo Magazine in 5000 locations in the good ole’ USA. Sam brought this article to our attention on our contributor discussion page and said, “Blog fodder. Do feminists agree with conservatives on this one?” I swear sometimes she says stuff just to get me riled up enough to write a blog. . .oh. . .wait.

So in a nutshell, Cosmo will not be available at the checkout where all the precious minds of little girls might get polluted with its sordid sexual content. Dawn Hawkins of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (Formerly known as Morality in the Media) claimed it as a victory of her organization’s own making, referencing #metoo as the inspiration for this action. Walmart made a vague statement about it being a “business decision” in which it “consulted” with unnamed entities. Cosmo isn’t being banned. It’s just being moved.

Honestly, do I care? I hate Cosmo. I mostly hate it because it over promises on the sex tips. Here’s an example, “7 Best Sex Positions for Female Orgasm“. It says these tips will “guarantee to help you orgasm”. But you know what? That’s bullshit. I’ve tried every one of them. I want my guarantee! They get me every time and dash my hopes. But you know what else is in there? This gem about the fight to include women’s choice into Obamacare. There’s also this one about my current favourite teen that isn’t related to me, Emma Gonzales, and the photoshopped picture of her ripping up the bill of rights.

When Sam asked if feminists agreed with conservatives, I will confess to having a trauma trigger. It all goes back to a time in 1990. I was a young impressionable law student and I read Catharine MacKinnon. For those who are too young to remember, these were troubled times in the feminist movement (I mean, when aren’t there troubled times). There was a general agreement that pornography, as conceptualized by the patriarchy, was not great for women. It was not about our pleasure, it was not about our agency, it was not about our actual bodies. It was about our function and that function was to arouse and get off men. That’s objectifying. That’s an impoverished view of women and women’s sexuality. But in the hopes of doing something about it, feminists teamed up with the “moral majority” of conservative evangelical politics. They argued for an end to the scourge using legal tools and in the process, did a terrible disservice to a lot of women, including me. In this discourse, sexuality became even more of a source of shame and, as happens, marginalized sexuality took the brunt of it. Somehow the mainstream porn industry continued to thrive while it was harder for alternate voices to get in there and change any of these narratives. Things didn’t get better for women as a result of this unholy alliance because it got hijacked by the more powerful partner in the endeavour. (This is an admittedly uncomplicated summary).

Meanwhile I wasted 10 years of my life not doing fun sexy things that I wanted to do because I thought it would make me a bad feminist. Did those well meaning white lady anti-porn feminists mean for any of this to happen? Of course not. But you can be sure that the folks like Ms. Hawkins would be pretty pleased that I stayed away from all that perverted hanky panky I was trying not to think about.

So, back to beleaguered Cosmo. I wish it was not such a trashy mag. I wish it portrayed more real bodies. I wish the sex advice was better. But other than that, it’s not the worst. They have stopped putting diet advice on the cover. There is a lot in the magazine that speaks to women’s agency. That it reports on celebrity gossip is not a thing that should banish it to the back shelves. I’m curious if that trashiest of trash piles the National Enquirer can still be found eye level with the kidletts? Likely. The hypocrisy is beyond the pale.

A brief perusal of the website of the NCOSE indicates that its main focus is on enforcing and strengthening obscenity law, educating young people about the dangers of overconsumption of porn, prohibiting the exchange of sex for money and somehow “stopping the demand for purchased sex”, I guess through the punishment of being caught (?). While their goals are around the protection of women and vulnerable young people, their tools involve repressing the material, not educating or empowering the victims in the ways I think are helpful. Their aims are also decidedly not sex or sex work positive. I guess that’s where we differ, me and Ms. Hawkins. Cosmo is imperfect, but it is somewhat educational. It reflects reality. NCOSE targeted Cosmo because it is a somewhat sex positive liberal trash mag. I will take that over a sex negative conservative mouth piece of a shameful president any day of the week.

So the answer, Sam, is NO!


A Gif of an older glamorous white woman in big sunglasses and a scarf wagging her finger and shaking her head, “Nuh uh, honey”.
advertising · food · gender policing

Now men can have sad treats too


Thanks Kimberly V!

See also:

advertising · body image · fitness · Guest Post · health

Fitness as process, not destination (Guest Post)

I think it is safe to say that most women, regardless of background, have at some point come across those ads commanding us to do something about our bodies.

It used to start in March or April, with the terror inducing demand we get started on making our body bikini-ready for summer. Then weddings got in on the trend, and as part of the ceremony planning, nutrition and body-shaping sessions were booked along with the photographer and the caterer.

Winter vacations were not to be left behind, so then the ads started clamouring for us to become beach ready or cruise ready in January. But perhaps what really took the dessert plate was the ad I saw a couple of years ago that said it was time to get Christmas-dress ready … in September.

Today it seems the demand to alter, shape, change, tweak our physical selves is year round, and there is always some part of our bodies that needs adjustment: chest, arms, legs, waist, butt. The list is endless.IMG_5212

One of the ways we are supposed to make our bodies fit the image of the desirable female is through exercise. I should note fitness isn’t necessarily part of the foundation for this effort, but it is the basis of much of the marketing behind the countless programs on offer.

I will wholeheartedly admit that one of the reasons I did not announce my fitness strategy was because I wanted to stave off the questions and comments about weight. I’ve always been a bigger girl/woman and while there were many times in my life when weight loss was a huge focus for me, once I hit 40, I realized I wanted to get off that train once and for all.

It was my work with a non-profit network focused on promoting positive body image that started me reading about the principles behind the Health At Every Size (HAES) approach. It led to a significant change in my thinking about how we define health and how we use fitness as the prop (or stick) to achieve health.

When I first met with my trainer, he asked me what my goals were for starting training. It was a useful question. The fact was I didn’t care about body shaping/toning and I wasn’t worried about “bulking up” as a result of any effort in the gym with weights. Since weight loss was not a goal, what was left for a woman who wanted to be fit and not hurt herself in the process?

As a communications professional, I look to quantifiable results for my work. I establish measureable objectives and then evaluate the success of my program. The key measureable results offered to women who embark on a fitness journey are pounds and inches lost. The goal there is to be skinny, thin, svelte etc – that is smaller than when you start.

When I applied my communications planning approach to my fitness work, I realized my goal was to live well and as healthily as possible. That meant I wanted to be able to move without assistance (now and in the future), to live free from injury, and to make activity a regular and enjoyable part of my life.

It wasn’t easy though shaking off some of the attitudes about what makes for an appropriate shape for women. Working with a trainer who focused on form and correct execution led to my looking at outcomes differently and finding the new measures that would help assess my progress in the gym.

Today, one of things I most appreciate about working towards achieving my goal to live well and be healthy is the fact that you are always working towards fitness. Fitness is not a six-week effort to achieve a better fit for your dress or swimsuit. It’s not a destination where you say “here I am, I am fit” simply because you can wear a bikini or a body-hugging sleeveless dress. Fitness is a process, and a way of life.

But if you want to be swimsuit ready, here’s a hint: put the swimsuit on. Now you are ready.

Martha Muzychka is a writer and consultant living in St. John’s, NL.

advertising · clothing · cycling · yoga

Is Lululemon trying to annoy me?

As readers of the blog know, I’m no fan of Lululemon. I’ve never had to actually boycott the store though since I don’t think they make anything (other than yoga mats and hair clips) that would fit size 14 me.

See Just walk slowly away from that rack of $100 yoga pants and On going commando and athletic clothing. Caitlin at Fit and Feminist has stuff to say too: WAS JOHN GALT A YOGI? OR WHY I WILL DEFINITELY NEVER BUY LULULEMON’S CLOTHING NOW. See also Are your favorite yoga pants evil?

But now they’ve gone and made some lovely looking cycling clothes which I might buy and wear since they’re lovely looking except they come only in men’s sizes and fit only men. See Bicycling Magazine’s review, Lululemon Introduces a Cycling Kit for Men.

It’s no secret that the core customers for yoga/casual apparel giant Lululemon are women. Even within cycling, the company’s most recent association was as title sponsor of a top women’s pro cycling team.

So it’s a little surprising that the first cycling-specific clothing the company is releasing isn’t for women. Instead, Lululemon’s new Sea to Sky collection is for guys and, according to the company’s PR agency, there are no immediate plans to produce a women’s version.

Which is too bad, because it’s a stylish kit that we think many of our female co-workers, friends, and family might like.


Lululemon Bib ShortsLululemon Sea to Sky Jersey

accessibility · advertising · athletes · body image · competition · fitness · inclusiveness · triathalon

Athena, motivation, and getting real about who competes in triathlon

There are a lot of motivational Facebook groups out there relevant to my fitness interests but the one I’m enjoying the most at the moment is the group for Athena triathletes and duathletes.

Athena group: This group is for triathletes who compete as or empathize with those who race multisport in the Athena class (165+ pounds). Note: You will not get kicked out of the group if you no longer qualify under the USAT rule for the Athena class and go below 165 pounds.

It’s a totally wonderful group. As a plus sized endurance athlete, it can sometimes feel like you’re the only one out there given the prevalent imagery of swimmers, runners, and cyclists.

It’s not a weight loss free group, unlike other Facebook groups of which I’m a member. But neither is it focused on food and size. Some people are happy competing at the weight they’re at , others have lost weight and still others want to keep losing. But weight loss isn’t the point. Triathlon, and duathlon, are the point. This group has interested even me in swimming.

I’ve expresssed my doubts about the Athena category before. See here.

The Athena/Clydesdale categories are an attempt to equalize competition in non-elite running and multisport events between big and small people. For men, Clydesdale is anyone over 200 lbs and for women the minimum weight for an Athena division runner is either 140 lbs or 150 lbs. But there are at least two problems with the Athena category. First, you have to select to run in it. And almost no women do.

Hint: It’s a great way to get medals. I’ve “won” the Athena division twice in duathlon events by being the only woman in the class.

I’m not sure if that’s because most women object to the weigh-in (a routine part of lots of sports, all of them with weight categories) but I didn’t actually have to weigh in since I’m clearly over that weight limit, or because they don’t want to be identified as part of the heavier group.

Second, as I looked around it seemed to me that most of the women competing were over that weight. Is it just wrong as a category? Am I wrong to think that 200 lbs seems okay for men but 140/150 seems small for women? As I mentioned with my bodpod results, my lean mass is 122 lbs so assuming I can retain that, I’ll always be an Athena class runner/multisport athlete.

I guess the Athena cut off is different in different places? The group’s description suggests 165 which is more reasonable than our local 150 lbs.  And it would be different in places where the fields of competitors are more populated. Locally it seems to me to fail to address the worry it sets out to address.

So while I have doubts about Athena as a racing category I have zero doubts about how supportive this group is.

Recently a group member posted about having to do a 2.5 hour workout on her bike trainer and not feeling inspired. The group came through with the impressive set of images and slogans below. I think it’s okay to share them as there’s no personal content and they’re a lot of fun.

Although as usual when it comes to motivational sayings and images, your mileage may vary. See the following posts  on fitness motivation:

Here’s my favourite though I was too late to share it with the group:


Back to the group: It’s great seeing all these Athena sized triathletes completing all the distances. The images make my Facebook a happy and inspirational place.

I’ve been struck by the difference between these pictures and the pictures in triathlon advertising. And then I read this article by Tom Demerly which is right on the same point. It’s All About That Bass: How The Triathlon Industry Gets It Wrong.

Who does triathlons in the United States today? What does the “average” triathlete look like?

Industry dogma suggests all triathletes are high wage earners between 30 and 45 who aspire to race Ironman (or already have). They own a $10K bike, race wheels and a power meter. Their household income is above $120K and they have a graduate level degree. They are the marketer’s dream come true: Young, affluent, fit and shopping.

There are two problems with that “demographic”: it’s outdated and likely wrong. Why?

(Stuff about income assumptions and how they’re false too not included. If you are interested go read the article.)

Americans have also changed physically. We’re heavier- all of us. The number of svelte, uber-athletes is smaller now than it was 20 years ago relative to the general populace, who apparently has been spending what’s left of their shrinking discretionary incomes on Krispy-Kremes, not qualifying for Kona.

As a result of this economic and health demographic shift triathlon has filled from the bottom. The sport is growing from an increasing number of new athletes who are more average, heavier, less athletic but still inspired to participate– if not necessarily compete.

This is good news for the triathlon industry if they become more pragmatic about who is really doing triathlons. History suggests the triathlon industry isn’t very realistic about its own consumership. It continues to (try to) market to the svelte, Kona demographic in print and internet media- even though the inspirational stories that bring people into the sport are usually the saga of the everyman participant who had to overcome to participate, and doesn’t really compete.

This fundamental misunderstanding of the distinction between Participation and Competition is what continues to hold the triathlon industry back. It is also why retailers have a hard time earning consistent profits from a market they are increasingly out of touch with.

There has never been an ad campaign in triathlon featuring realistically sized, average age group triathletes. In fact, the same rebellion that has happened in women’s apparel marketing with consumers raging against brands like Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch is ready to happen in triathlon. The middle 90% wants triathlon to “get real” about who is actually participating, and they don’t care about who’s racing in Kona.

advertising · holidays · sex

Goodlife competition for straights only?

A friend and bioethicist and fellow academic blogger recently wrote the following letter to Goodlife Fitness: Goodlife’s straight members only competition – Open Letter to its CEO.

My partner and I have been members of your gym chain for many years. We happen to be gay. Your competition misleads members into thinking that Jamaica is a tourist destination like any other, sun, beach and a good time. Nothing good be further from the truth.

Jamaica is a militantly homophobic society, religious fundamentalists have written anti-gay provision into the country’s constitution. Here is a helpful link to a 2014 report by the respected human rights organisation Human Rights Watch on anti-gay violence in Jamaica.

My husband and I would be up ‘eligible’ for an up-to ten year jail term should we choose to engage in sexual intercourse during a vacation we might win if we took part in your competition.

Local civil rights groups lament, ‘serious human rights abuses, including assault with deadly weapons, of women accused of being lesbians, arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of gay and lesbian patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of such persons.’

Given the current attention to laws permitting the active discriminations against gay customers in Indiana, I cannot help but wonder what drove your company to offer a competition that would subject your gay and lesbian members to serious risk of bodily harm, not to say long jail terms, should they win your competition and decide to actually go to Jamaica.

I am writing to you today to ask that you cancel the ongoing competition and replace the ‘Jamaica’ labelled posters with posters that offer a vacation price, but a vacation of the winner’s choosing. Otherwise, you really are telling your gay and lesbian members that our well-being and safety is of no concern to you, and that the current competition celebrating the chain’s 36th anniversary is really addressed to the club’s straight members only.

Goodlife forwarded the concerns to Tourism Jamaica who wrote back as follows ( bolded the bit that might be of concern to GLBT travelers):

Jamaica welcomes visitors from all over the world and from all segments of society equally with the warmth and courtesy they expect and deserve. We recognize that there are diverse communities and cultures interested in Jamaica as a travel destination, and we embrace that diversity with respect. In Jamaica, we are committed to the safety of all travelers. We respect the right of all visitors to Jamaica to express their own beliefs and to satisfy their own vacation experiences while staying with us.We respect the choices of adults and responsible adult activities. In keeping with travel to any destination in the world, we encourage visitors to respect Jamaican laws and community standards, and to take reasonable  measures to enhance their travel experience.  Please know that we welcome everyone with open arms and look forward to sharing the beauty that is Jamaica with them.

Luckily Goodlife also allowed that Udo and his partner could substitute another trip if they chose. ” Should you win this trip, we would be happy to award you with a trip of equal value to another destination.”

He’s satisfied with that reply but wonders whether they ought also to warn gays and lesbians who might win this competition *not* to go to Jamaica due to the risk to their well-being, as well as legislation criminalizing the sexual conduct of gay men.

I agree.

What do you think?