Book Club · weight stigma

FIFI book club: “You just need to lose weight” and 19 other myths about fat people (section four)

CW: in-depth discussion of anti-fatness myths and people’s experiences around body shaming.

Welcome back to installment four of the FIFI book club’s review of You just need to lose weight and 19 other myths about fat people, by Aubrey Gordon. If you missed any previous bookclub posts, you can access them below.

FIFI book club: You just need to lose weight, and 19 other myths about fat people

FIFI book club: You just need to lose weight, and 19 other myths about fat people (section two)

FIFI book club: You just need to lose weight, and 19 other myths about fat people (section three)

This week, we are commenting on section four, “Fat people should…”

The last six myths that Gordon discusses are:

  • myth 15: “Fat people shouldn’t call themselves fat.”
  • myth 16: “People who have never been fat have ‘internalized fat phobia’.”
  • myth 17: “No one is attracted to fat people. Anyone who is has a fat fetish.”
  • myth 18: “Fat people should pay for a second airplane seat.”
  • myth 19: “Skinny shaming is just as bad a fat shaming.”
  • myth 20: “Anti-fatness is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination.”

First up is Diane:

My biggest issue was the argument around the last socially acceptable form of discrimination. I get her point about intersectionality and the fact that people still discriminate despite the laws (which may themselves not address all issues). However, there is a real difference between legally protecting people from discrimination (which has some consequences) vs no grounds at all.

That struck home again today as I read about fat people being told they have to buy two airline seats (reported on CNN). People with disabilities no longer have to pay for a seat for someone who accompanies them (at least for domestic travel in Canada). It did take a legal fight, but I don’t get the sense that anyone is willing to take up that battle on behalf of fat people.

On to Amy:

I thought these last few myths were a really great way to close out the book. Again, I think those Maintenance Phase fans will hear them all in Gordon’s voice, and some of the discussion will feel familiar. I was really pleased that Gordon chose to close the book with Myth 20 “Anti-fatness is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination.” It can sometimes feel like that when you are in a bigger body, or at least that has been true to me. But that’s because I hold a lot of other privileges, so when I run into instances where people are treating me differently (negatively) around my body size it can feel shocking. And when no one else notices or defends it does feel like people are “allowing” that discrimination.

But I realized a few years ago when I heard an older person say that ageism was the “last acceptable form of discrimination” that there are so many forms of discrimination that people overlook, don’t notice, or actively engage in. Declaring one or another as “the last acceptable” further marginalizes people/communities that have been minoritized and doesn’t work to address systemic issues.

Here are my (Catherine’s) comments:

Gordon applies her verbal scalpel decisively to myth 15: “Fat people shouldn’t call themselves fat.” What is revealed are some harsh truths.

She says, “The logic of fat shaming… reveals itself… [saying that] It’s wrong to publicly humiliate someone for being fat only if they aren’t actually fat.” Gordon offers examples of celebrities who’ve been fat-shamed for being larger versions of previous selves (she doesn’t mention Oprah here, who is the poster-person for this odious treatment). When such targets (almost always female-presenting) are defended, it’s to say that so-and-so isn’t really fat. They don’t say that fat-shaming is wrong, but rather that the particular claim of fatness is inaccurate.

Gordon says the word “fat” really strikes fear in thin people.

The fear of being fat is the fear of joining an underclass that you have so readily dismissed, looked down upon, looked past, or been so grateful not to have been a part of…. thin people are terrified of being treated the way they have so often seen fat people treated or even the way they have treated fat people themselves.

I think there’s a lot more to this myth. Thin people call themselves fat all the time. All of my female relatives do and have done so all their lives. Visiting my family while reading this book and writing these posts has made me more aware of how pervasive and acceptable the use of the word “fat” is when self-applied by thin people, but never with actual fat people. I was talking to a relative, saying “I may be old and fat, but I can (insert some physical feat or other)”. Immediately, I was shushed, saying “you’re not fat! You’re not old!”

But I am old. I’m 61. That’s old. Not super-old, but it’s undeniably in the “old” category. It’s okay. I’m also fat. I’m a small fat, which means I have some privilege that larger fat people don’t have. But I am indeed fat. It’s not a disaster. It’s just me, as I am right now. Which Gordon says is important– that is, it’s important that I be able to name my own body. “Thin people’s discomfort with a word that has hurt them shouldn’t stand in the way of the liberation of actual fat people.”

Yeah. Huzzah to that!

Dear readers– what do you think about these myths? Did any strike a strong note with you? We’d love to hear from you.

Book Club · weight stigma

FIFI book club: “You just need to lose weight” and 19 other myths about fat people (section three)

CW: in-depth discussion of anti-fatness myths and people’s experiences around body shaming.

Welcome back to installment three of the FIFI book club’s review of You just need to lose weight and 19 other myths about fat people, by Aubrey Gordon. If you missed any previous bookclub posts, you can access them below.

FIFI book club: You just need to lose weight, and 19 other myths about fat people

FIFI book club: You just need to lose weight, and 19 other myths about fat people (section two)

This week, we are commenting on section three, “Fat acceptance glorifies obesity”. The myths of this section are:

  • myth 10: “Accepting fat people glorifies obesity.”
  • myth 11: “Body positivity is feeling better about yourself, as long as you’re happy and healthy.”
  • myth 12: “We’re in the middle of an obesity epidemic.”
  • myth 13: “Fat people don’t experience discrimination.”
  • myth 14: “I don’t like gaining weight, but I don’t treat fat people differently.”

Here are Amy’s comments:

There was so much to unpack in this section, and it really addressed the “myths” that I encounter most in my every day experience. These five also work together in the most insidious ways to make it easy/ier to justify being biased against fat people. If body positivity is about the individual then it doesn’t matter how someone/society views that individual so long as the individual has the ability to tune out all that noise and love themselves even while (gasp) being fat. If accepting fat people promotes and glorifies obesity, especially in the middle of an obesity epidemic(!) we must avoid that acceptance at all costs. Instead we should try to “fix” fat people so they can be “healthy and happy.”

Myth 13 is truly laughable to me. I just spent 3 days running around to malls and stores in 3 different towns trying to buy one outfit for an upcoming trip. Because stores don’t carry or stock a full spectrum of sizes, and each mall only has one “plus size” store. So in addition to paying the “fat tax” of those specialty stores being more expensive I also paid more in gas and time lost driving from place to place. Citing concerns about a fat person’s health is a common tactic used against fat people, but no one ever asks how my mental health is impacted by having to go drive all over the county to find 2 suitable pieces of clothing (or be relegated to online shopping and the often laborious return process that entails).

Myth 14 also made me roll my eyes a little bit. I frequently have colleagues and friends say this to me. The refusal to accept that their feelings about weight gain is not happening in a vacuum but rather in a world where they are constantly told they must not feel good if they have gained weight is noticeable. And when they get into the nitty gritty about whatever diet they are following to lose the weight… the sacrifices and hardships they are making by depriving themselves, I know I am supposed to feel shame for not forcing that on myself and instead “choosing” to be/stay fat. How are fat people supposed to maintain close relationships with people who constantly say/imply/indicate that their biggest worry is having a body like ours?

On to Samantha’s comments:

I don’t have a lot to say about this section. It’s pretty familiar material but once again I have a favorite myth. This time it’s number 14: I don’t like gaining weight but I don’t treat fat people differently.

We all have that friend, the normal sized friend who is trying to lose weight all the while insisting it’s just about them. They don’t mind other people being fat.

Yeah, right.

Gordon has a couple of things to say about this myth and the ways in which anti fat bias hurts everyone. Whatever we say most of us do engage in anti fat bias and we do treat fat people worse than thin people.

Also, I like the opportunities for action at the end. My favorite is asking for consent before engaging in diet talk. I also agree with Gordon that we should ditch all talk of “feeling fat.”

Here are Diane’s comments:

The history nerd in me loved the first part of Myth 11, which explained the roots of the body positivity movement in the US civil and welfare rights movements. The commercialization since? Not so much. Myth 10 immediately had me thinking about the painter Rubens, an all the other Renaissance and Baroque artists who painted glorious portraits of fat women and men. And more recently, Colombian artist and sculptor Fernando Botero.

Though I have heard Myth 12 ripped to shreds on Maintenance Phase, I loved reading this chapter. The “science” behind this one is “garbage” to use one of Aubrey’s favourite words on the podcast. It’s also the myth that has me dreading every visit to the doctor’s office, and feeling relief when no-one asks about my weight.

The last two myths in this section are best addressed in the questions for reflection and action at the end, about learning to identify and address our implicit biases. Anti-fatness is so ingrained in the world view of many that we don’t even notice it. But at least we can try to be aware, and address the more conscious manifestations of it.

On to Tracy’s comments:

On Myth 14: The subtle and not as subtle forms anti-fat bias takes are many and varied. The upshot of this myth is: anyone who doesn’t like gaining weight has anti-fat bias, and people with anti-fat bias treat fat people at best differently and likely worse than they treat thin people. The chapter gives lots of examples of anti-fat bias: using thin actors in fat suits to play fat characters in movies; frequent talk about “feeling fat” or body dissatisfaction, even from thinner people; trying to “reassure” people who self-describe as fat that they’re not; complimenting people on weight loss, assuming it to be a desired and planned weight loss; expressions of “concern” about health; studies showing the majority of women-identifying people feeling unhappy with their bodies regardless of their body size. Thinner women expressing negative body image is identified as causing harm to fat women and reinforcing anti-fat bias.

Her distinction between implicit and explicit anti-fat bias is useful, and the study at the end that showed that participants who were told their anti-fat attitudes were in conflict with their values engaged in less explicit anti-fat bias (at least in the moment soon after being so told). I think this is true for many of (that anti-fat bias is in conflict with our values), so it’s promising that finding ways to remind ourselves of that can potentially help to address explicit bias.

Implicit bias is of course harder to change, and requires collective effort to change widespread attitudes and assumptions. That change does happen through the cumulative actions of individuals though, so she suggests as opportunities for action: taking the Harvard Project Implicit implicit bias test on anti-fat bias, asking friends or family members who are fatter than you for feedback; always checking first before launching into a discussion of diet or weight; not talking about “feeling fat” as a substitute for what you’re really feeling, since that is a clear expression of anti-fat bias.

Now to my (Catherine’s) comments:

I never really took seriously myth 10, that “accepting fat people glorifies obesity”. It always seemed nonsensical on its face. But it’s been around in multiple forms, including academic ones. Ten years ago, prominent bioethicist Daniel Callahan wrote a peer-reviewed article proposing that, in order to “reduce obesity rates [the government should] use strong social pressure—even if it crosses the line into outright discrimination—to teach people that being overweight and obese is ‘not socially acceptable any longer,’ and ‘to make just about everyone strongly want to avoid being overweight and obese.’ (cited from this paper, by Janet Tomiyama and Traci Mann, objecting and responding to Callahan’s claims).

Tomiyama and Mann go on to point out that such stigma is ever-present in every aspect of the lives of fat people; if stigmatizing fatness would have turned fat people into thin people, it most certainly would’ve worked by now. What it does do is make fat people the targets of discrimination in all sectors of society. If what governments care about is a healthier populace (however that gets interpreted), anti-fat bias provably undermines that goal.

I’ll be blogging soon about what “glorifying obesity” could even mean, and what “accepting fat people” really does mean. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you– what do you think of these myths?

body image · Book Club · fat · weight stigma

FIFI book club: “You just need to lose weight” and 19 other myths about fat people (section two)

CW: in-depth discussion of anti-fatness myths and people’s experiences around body shaming.

Welcome back to installment two of the FIFI book club’s review of You just need to lose weight and 19 other myths about fat people, by Aubrey Gordon. If you missed last week’s post, you can access it below.

FIFI book club: You just need to lose weight, and 19 other myths about fat people

This week, we are talking about section two, which is about health-related myths foisted upon fat people. Here they are:

  • myth 6: obesity is the leading cause of death in the US
  • myth 7: BMI is an objective measure of size and health
  • myth 8: doctors are unbiased judges of fat people’s health. Fat people don’t like going to the doctor’s office because they don’t like hearing the truth.
  • myth 9: fat people are emotionally damaged and cope by “eating their feelings”.

Sam’s comments

The second part of Gordon’s book is about health myths related to fatness. She does a good job with the issues which will be familiar to readers of this blog. The one I’d like to chime in on is the one that drives me wild because it’s one I encounter among otherwise progressive, body accepting people. It’s Myth 9, “Fat people are emotionally damaged and cope by ‘eating their feelings.’”

Gordon takes on the concept of ‘emotional eating’ which came into vogue in the 70s and was the way Weight Watchers’ founder Jean Nidetch framed her own journey to weighing too much. On this view of overweight and obesity, fatness comes to be as a response to trauma. Fat people have endured horrible experiences and turn to food for emotional comfort. Deal with the trauma, cease the emotional eating, and a normal body size will emerge.

Of course, while this matches the experience of some fat people it’s too simple in a few different ways. First, it ignores the genetic aspects of our body size and in families, you’ll see people who have different experiences, not everyone has a traumatic childhood, but many or all of the family members share a body size. Second, lots of people engage in emotional eating and don’t get fat. Emotional eating may not always be a healthy response to the bad stuff in our lives but it doesn’t necessarily lead to weight gain.

To this I’d add the thing I’ve blogged about, not all emotional eating is unhealthy

See also Four worries Sam has about intuitive eating. Here I raise the worry that the emotional eating framework becomes yet another way to judge and blame fat people, especially fat women.

“You’re supposed to only eat because you’re hungry. Intuitive eating, done right, is supposed to land you at the right weight for your size (see above). Therefore, larger people must be eating for reasons besides hunger. You’re supposed to be vigilant about emotional eating. So often there’s judgments about mental and emotional health of fat people, as if we can read your emotional well-being off the number on the scale. It assumes that if you take care of your mental and emotional health your weight will fix itself. And that you can tell that people–and here pretty much we mean women–are emotionally unstable, because they’re fat. Just no.”

See also Catherine’s Comfort eating– it’s not gonna kill you, and may even be beneficial (says science)

To sum up, I liked this section on health but I think you almost need a whole other section on myths about emotional health and larger bodies.

Diane’s comments

This section didn’t hold a lot of surprises. I really liked the attempt to asses the causality of obesity related to various diseases. As I now deal with arthritis-related joint pain and high blood pressure, I get anxious about whether I could be doing something more to help myself. I would happily have read a lot more about this topic as I’m still not confident I understand all the nuances around where there are legitimate causal links (while fully supporting the well-argued case that fat does not necessarily cause disease and that many other factors including poverty and genetics are at play).

The one surprise was in Myth 8. I have heard from friends abut their experiences with doctors demonstrating anti-fat bias by dismissing health concerns and focusing instead on their weight, but I didn’t know that getting this short shrift was a literal thing – fat people actually have shorter appointments.

Amy’s comments

The second section was just as informative as the first, and Gordon tackles some great myths here. One of the ones that struck me was Myth 8 “Doctors are Unbiased Judges of Fat People’s Health.” As we know is true almost universally, humans are biased. We are all produced in particular systems and structures that often lead us to bias, both conscious and unconscious. Doctors are no different. Here Gordon goes on to provide data taken from medical training environments regarding people with higher weights and larger bodies. She offers studies in which some of those bias were reduced with small tweaks to the environment or educational information.

I’m often stymied by friends, many of whom are academic researchers themselves, who take information from their medical doctors at face value. Even when they are told by others that the info may be biased or out of date, they insist that the physician must be correct simply because they are a doctor.

One friend in particular was told by an “ob*s*ty specialist” that they would die if they didn’t reduce their body weight. They embarked on a lengthy “treatment” process of what was essentially a (reduced) calories in/(elevated) calories out model. When confronted with the notion that a) this doc was making a (lucrative) living off convincing higher weight folks that they need to lose weight and b) the dangers and stats on weight cycling, the friend doubled down by insisting that they “just didn’t want to die.”

The fear mongering that can happen in the medical community around weight and body size is truly astounding to me, and Gordon captures quite a lot of the foundation for these tactics in this chapter.

The chapter on emotional eating also stuck out for me, not so much because of the negative valence attached to emotional eating (though there is that too) but for the identifying of the assumption that anyone who is fat must be engaging in it. This chapter does a great job of really pulling the curtain back on the way no one questions “naturally thin” people but the default assumption about someone fat is that they must be doing something “wrong” (in this case engaging in “emotional eating” in response to trauma).

Tracy’s comments

The chapter on emotional eating also stuck out for me, not so much because of the negative valence attached to emotional eating (though there is that too) but for the identifying of the assumption that anyone who is fat must be engaging in it. This chapter does a great job of really pulling the curtain back on the way no one questions “naturally thin” people but the default assumption about someone fat is that they must be doing something “wrong” (in this case engaging in “emotional eating” in response to trauma).

In general this book has so far been a been a very uncomfortable read for me as someone who has relative thin privilege and who has been a proponent of intuitive eating.

And here are my (Catherine’s) comments

These days, I spend a good bit of my professional research and speaking time on myths 6 and 7, giving talks and writing about 6) how higher body weights are not (I repeat, not!) correlated with all-cause mortality; and, 7) how BMI is not (I repeat, not!) an indicator of health. Gordon’s chapters on these myths are superbly done and precisely documented with studies to back up her rejoinders to these entrenched myths. Her citations are but a small sample of the comprehensive literature showing that the relationships between body weight and mortality risk, and between body weight and disease are not simple and are not linear. They are complex, nuanced, and modulated by genetic, genomic, environmental, and other factors.

Yes, science is complicated. And the science of human metabolism is especially complicated. But anti-fat bias plus the desire for simplicity drives medical beliefs and practices that have been oversimplified to the point of falsehood.

Take BMI as an example. It’s easy to calculate someone’s BMI. All you need are a tape measure (for height), a scale (for weight), and a BMI table. Anyone in any primary care practice can measure and weigh people reasonably accurately and very cheaply. So BMI is a cheap and easy metric to use. The problem is, it doesn’t actually measure what medicine and public health are looking for, which is something like “risk of disease/death due to degree of fatness or thinness or body shape, relative to height”.

I am here to tell you today that IF there were some biometric(s) that predicted disease or mortality risk in virtue of one’s size or amount of fatness or type of fatness or distribution of bodily fatness, they wouldn’t be simple or easy or cheap to measure. We know this already: there are loads of studies that use metrics like fat-free mass and others to investigate their possible correlations with e.g. mortality risk. Based on initial research, those possible correlations are complicated, change during the life course, and they require very expensive equipment not found in doctors’ offices.

As of right now, medical science doesn’t have any easily accessible, clearly interpretable, agreed-upon metrics that predict disease or mortality risk due to fatness. When I’ve given talks to physicians’ groups about how bogus BMI is, they (sometimes grudgingly) accept the data, but during the Q&A a few will inevitably fall back on the assumption that increased body weight is always a negative medical indicator. I get that healthcare providers are constrained by time, insurance billing codes and regulations, and the need to address complex and urgent health problems with limited tools. But BMI is just not one of those tools. It’s a blunt object, and every single fat person (myself included) is done with being bludgeoned by it.

Readers, are you reading this book? Do you have any thoughts about this week’s myths? Let us know.

Book Club · fitness · weight stigma

FIFI book club: “You just need to lose weight” and 19 other myths about fat people

CW: in-depth discussion of anti-fatness myths and people’s experiences around body shaming.

If you haven’t heard about Aubrey Gordon, then now’s a very good time to meet her. Gordon is a writer, podcaster and activist. She co-hosts the podcast Maintenance Phase, which we’ve blogged about here. Her newest book, “You just need to lose weight”, and 19 other myths about fat people, has been covered by just about every media outlet, from the Washington Post to Glamour UK to Literary Hub.

I’ll just come out and say it right now: this is a book that a) really needed to be written; b) really needs to be read by everyone (especially everyone who works in health care); and c) is brilliantly done by Aubrey Gordon.

If you decide to read/listen to this book, don’t skip over the introduction. Here are some of my favorite bits:

Many of these myths center around treating fat people as failed thin people, implying that thin people are superior to fat people.

This is one of the best sentences I’ve ever read explaining fat stigma.

Gordon also addresses the question, “why give these anti-fat myths any airtime?” Her answer is:

We may talk about diets differently today, but social mandates to become thin are as strong as ever.


Engaging with these myths, as thin people or as fat people, provides us with opportunities “to interrupt moments of anti-fatness in our daily lives”. Staring down the myths and reducing them to the factually inaccurate and blatantly bigoted views that they are is long overdue.

We’ll be reading and posting on each of the four sections of the book, starting with section one today. We encourage you to read along with us and post comments. We’ll be reading them and responding.

For each section, I’ll list the myths that are covered, and then a few responses by our bloggers. Here are the myths Gordon discusses in section one:

  1. Being fat is a choice; if fat people don’t like how they’re treated, they should just lose weight.
  2. Any fat person can become thin if they try hard enough; it’s just a matter of calories in, calories out.
  3. Parents are responsible for their child’s weight; only bad parents let their children get fat.
  4. Thin people should help fat people lose weight.
  5. Weight loss is the result of healthy choices and should be celebrated.

Here’s Amy’s overview:

I really enjoyed reading this book. As a regular listener to Maintenance Phase I could almost hear this entire book in Aubrey’s voice as I was reading it. There was so much that resonated with me, as a person in a bigger body, in this first section. Like Aubrey, I’ve been stopped by thin people who have suggestions on how I can lose weight. I had a co-worker tell me I looked like I had “had a healthful sabbatical” because I returned in a smaller body than when I left, and received countless lectures on “calories in/calories out.”

The excellent writing and easy style of offering facts without judgment is refreshing in the realm of books about bodies and how much they weigh. I was excited to read this book and I’m thrilled to say it did not disappoint.

Here’s Tracy, focusing on myths about parents, children and body weight:

First, to be clear, Aubrey is preaching to the converted — I already am completely on board with the message and love Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes’s blog, The Maintenance Phase, where they debunk diet myths left, right, and centre. Nonetheless, listening to her book I discovered that I can still be shocked and outraged, and I still have a lot to learn. Part 1 presents five myths that fall under the “Being fat is a choice” theme.

There is room to be outraged at every turn, but the chapter on children (Myth: Parents are responsible for their child’s weight. Only bad parents let their children get fat), really made me despair about how far we have to go. I learned that children have literally been removed from homes and put into foster care. I didn’t know this. Also, in some places, including several US States, there is no lower age limit on gastric bypass surgery and as a result it has been performed on children. I think I heard right that the youngest person to have it was two and a half years old.

Besides horrific stories representing these extremes, the whole chapter made me keenly aware (again, as a sad reminder) of how entrenched ant-fat bias is in our culture, such that children are shamed for being fat. Indeed, it brought me back to the beginning of when I was ushered into the world of dieting at the age of 16 after I gained 15 pounds in five weeks on a trip to Europe. After that, my grandfather had one more story to add to the family repertoire, and that was that when he saw me at the airport he didn’t at first recognize me because [here he would blow out both of his cheeks like a balloon to demonstrate how fat I looked, and then everyone would laugh – or at least this is how I remember that story going every time it was hauled out for fun]. I remember not thinking it was particularly funny, and feeling for the first time that I had to “do something” about my body. So the children chapter resonated and took me back to the beginning of my struggle with food, weight, and body image.

And one more thing I noted: she talked about why anti-fat bias is not “fat-phobia” and that referring to it as such doesn’t capture its far-ranging oppressive impact.

Next up is Diane:

What I loved most was the end section with all the notes. So much is said about the need for low body weight without evidence to back up the claims. I’m an evidence nerd, so perusing the sources made me very happy.

Like Tracy, the chapter on children was also shocking for me. It was also the one where I had to think hard about my own anti-fat biases. I have learned to be much more accepting of all body shapes, but a little part of me still falls for this myth if I’m not careful.

The last myth (Anti-fatness is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination) really made me think because Aubrey pointed out that words without actions are meaningless. Anti-fatness often targets women, Black people, people of colour, poor people, queer and 2SLGBTQI people, disabled people, who also face discrimination that is supposed to be illegal. But discrimination against those groups, regardless of body size, it remains socially acceptable as long as we collectively allow it to happen.

I’m wrapping up, again pointing out some of my favorite Gordon smack-down passages:

When someone tells me to just lose weight, it teaches me that I can never expect their advocacy on behalf of fat people. The best I can hope for is their indifference.

As a person who identifies as fat (and whose weight has gone up and down throughout my life), I’m very familiar with the anger and heartache and sadness that comes with knowing that I’m being judged as less professional, smart, attractive or worthy of respect than the thinner people in every environment. I’m also familiar with unsolicited advice about diets or weight loss from others. To paraphrase Gordon, it’s as if we owe thinness to others, that our very fatness is an embarrassment to them, an offense against them.

But, but… what about your health? I’m just concerned about you.

Yeah, no. I”m not falling for that again.

Health-concern trolling is a bad thing. If you want to read a bunch of reasons why, check out this easy-to-scan-if-slightly-salty article.

Honestly, I could go on all day just about section one, but I’ll leave you with a few comments about the idea that weight loss should always be celebrated (part of myth five). Gordon says this:

Ultimately, weight-loss compliments don’t function without a hierarchy of bodies. Thinness is only worth celebrating if it is an accomplishment, and thinness is only an accomplishment if fatness is a failure.

“Healthiness” compliments work very similarly, which Gordon notes, revealing bodily hierarchies that mirror our other power hierarchies, enfolding racism, misogyny, ableism, etc. to exclude and disparage bodies of those who aren’t in favor. If you’re interested in another great read on this topic, check out Sabrina Strings’ Fearing the Black Body: the Racial Origins of Fat Phobia. Gordon cites it, I’ve read it and it’s really worth checking out.

We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment about experiences or views or suggested reading.

Book Club · Book Reviews · fitness

To listen, read, and watch this week, the first week of April 2023


There’s a new fit and feminist podcast in town!

#34 The benefits of journaling and getting started

The Fit and Feminist Podcast


Our books club is starting soon! Do you have your copy?

“The co-host of Maintenance Phase and creator of Your Fat Friend equips you with the facts to debunk common anti-fat myths and with tools to take action for fat justice.

The pushback that shows up in conversations about fat justice takes exceedingly predicable form. Losing weight is easy—calories in, calories out. Fat people are unhealthy. We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Fat acceptance “glorifies obesity.” The BMI is an objective measure of size and health. Yet, these myths are as readily debunked as they are pervasive.

In “You Just Need to Lose Weight,” Aubrey Gordon equips readers with the facts and figures to reframe myths about fatness in order to dismantle the anti-fat bias ingrained in how we think about and treat fat people. Bringing her dozen years of community organizing and training to bear, Gordon shares the rhetorical approaches she and other organizers employ to not only counter these pernicious myths, but to dismantle the anti-fat bias that so often underpin them.

As conversations about fat acceptance and fat justice continue to grow, “You Just Need to Lose Weight” will be essential to ensure that those conversations are informed, effective, and grounded in both research and history.”


“When the filmmaker Azza Cohen asked her grandmother to star in a documentary, she knew she wanted to tell a story of an older person not looking back at her life but forward. Cohen’s short film “FLOAT!” follows her 82-year-old bubbe as she checks off one of the items on her bucket list—learning how to swim.”

Float: A Grandma Learns to Swim

Book Club · Book Reviews · fitness · music

To listen, read, and watch this weekend, #ListenReadWatch

To Listen

Equal, a Spotify playlist in honour of International Women’s Day



Here at the blog we’re reading and reviewing “You Just Need to Lose Weight” and 19 Other Myths About Fat People by Aubrey Gordon. Pick up a copy and join in. We’d love to know what you think. Some purchasing options are here.


Lori Campbell writes “Hey friends outside of the land commonly known as Canada – did you know you can now watch the first 3 episodes of Canada’s Ultimate Challenge for free on YouTube??

Check it out!”

We interviewed Lori about Canada’s Ultimate Challenge here.


Book Club · Book Reviews · fitness

So Many Books to Read!

Here’s three blog related books I plan to read. They all look great. Catherine might even organize one as a group book review, which I’ve enjoyed participating in in the past.

Are there any other feminist fitness books in your life this new year? Share in the comments.

“You Just Need to Lose Weight” and 19 Other Myths About Fat People by Aubrey Gordon

Discussed here on Maintenance Phase

“The pushback that shows up in conversations about fat justice takes exceedingly predicable form. Losing weight is easy—calories in, calories out. Fat people are unhealthy. We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Fat acceptance “glorifies obesity.” The BMI is an objective measure of size and health. Yet, these myths are as readily debunked as they are pervasive. In “You Just Need to Lose Weight,” Aubrey Gordon equips readers with the facts and figures to reframe myths about fatness in order to dismantle the anti-fat bias ingrained in how we think about and treat fat people. Bringing her dozen years of community organizing and training to bear, Gordon shares the rhetorical approaches she and other organizers employ to not only counter these pernicious myths, but to dismantle the anti-fat bias that so often underpin them. As conversations about fat acceptance and fat justice continue to grow, “You Just Need to Lose Weight” will be essential to ensure that those conversations are informed, effective, and grounded in both research and history.”

Rest is Resistance

“What would it be like to live in a well-rested world? Far too many of us have claimed productivity as the cornerstone of success. Brainwashed by capitalism, we subject our bodies and minds to work at an unrealistic, damaging, and machine‑level pace –– feeding into the same engine that enslaved millions into brutal labor for its own relentless benefit. In Rest Is Resistance, Tricia Hersey, aka the Nap Bishop, casts an illuminating light on our troubled relationship with rest and how to imagine and dream our way to a future where rest is exalted. Our worth does not reside in how much we produce, especially not for a system that exploits and dehumanizes us. Rest, in its simplest form, becomes an act of resistance and a reclaiming of power because it asserts our most basic humanity. We are enough. The systems cannot have us. Rest Is Resistance is rooted in spiritual energy and centered in Black liberation, womanism, somatics, and Afrofuturism. With captivating storytelling and practical advice, all delivered in Hersey’s lyrical voice and informed by her deep experience in theology, activism, and performance art, Rest Is Resistance is a call to action, a battle cry, a field guide, and a manifesto for all of us who are sleep deprived, searching for justice, and longing to be liberated from the oppressive grip of Grind Culture.”

Fit Nation

“For Petrzela, fitness is a social justice issue. She argues that the fight for a more equitable exercise culture will be won only by revolutionizing fitness culture at its core, making it truly inclusive for all bodies in a way it has never been. Examining venues from the stage of the World’s Fair and Muscle Beach to fat farms, feminist health clinics, radical and evangelical college campuses, yoga retreats, gleaming health clubs, school gymnasiums, and many more, Fit Nation is a revealing history that shows fitness to be not just a matter of physical health but of what it means to be an American.”

Book Club · Book Reviews · fitness · menopause

Book Review: Next Level

by Stacy T. Sims with Selene Yeager. This is the follow-up book to Sims Roar, and focuses specifically on physically active women approaching or in menopause. I was interested in this book after I saw numerous women in triathlete and cycling groups singing its praises. Before I go further into the review I want to note that I found the book covertly fat-phobic and would not recommend it to anyone with disordered eating (or in recovery) or to anyone who just generally doesn’t want to be told repeatedly that maintaining or improving body composition is a key reason to remain active. I’d also add that the book discusses only women, and does not recognize that some people who menstruate/experience menopause do not identify as women.

Part One of the book offers a detailed overview of menopause. What it is, what it does within the body, and the possible impacts it may have on people experiencing perimenopause and menopause. I found chapter 3, focusing on hormones and symptoms, especially useful for breaking the whole process down into simple language and explanations.

Part Two of the book moves on to performance. It is probably useful to note here that this section is geared toward athletes. While this includes recreational athletes it does not feel as inclusive of folks who are regularly active but not “athletes.” There is no definition of the difference between those two levels of activity, but my personal sense is this book is not written for someone who spends their days chasing kids around a playground or someone who does a medium-intensity 30 minute workout a few times a week. The schedule templates and descriptions are more in line with someone who is training for an event, who works out 6-7 days per week, often with an endurance (multi-hour) session or race included. Though you would not discern it from the title “Next Level: Your Guide to Kicking Ass, Feeling Great, and Crushing Goals Through Menopause and Beyond” this book is not written for an inactive or low-activity person.

Chapters 5, 6, and 7 focus on the specific types of activity Sims recommends: HIIT, SIT, lifting “heavy shit,” and pylometrics and jumps. She gives an overview of different high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and sprint interval training (SIT) structures (tabata, hill sprints, 20/10, 40/20, etc). Here’s where the language about “performance-boosting body composition changes” comes back up, along with Sims belief that HIIT and SIT strengthens and increases amount of energy-producing mitochondria, improves insulin sensitivity and lowers fasting blood sugar levels, triggers anti-inflammatory response when done regularly, stimulates brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) keeping gray matter healthy and improving cognition and working memory. Sims is a big believer in “lifting heavy sh*t,” citing benefits in strength building, increased metabolic rate (waking up more muscle fibers which requires a lot of energy to exist), improved posture and stability, stronger bones, better blood pressure control, maintenance of healthy body composition (defined as maintaining lean muscle, reducing fat gain), and fewer sick days (improves immunity). She also includes tips for lifting heavy sh*t, including warm-up moves and basic heavy lifts. Finally, Sims discusses information about jumps and plyometric moves, citing research that supports plyometrics being beneficial for improved muscular strength, bone health, body composition, posture, and physical performance. This chapter also includes a guide to these movements, working in phases from beginner through intermediate levels.

The next 10 chapters focus on aspects that can impact athletic performance, such as gut health and microbiome balance, diets and proper nutrition fueling, nutrition timing, hydration, sleep and recovery, stability and core strength, bone strength, exercise scheduling, and supplements. Many chapters include descriptions of athletes Sims has coached during the menopause transition, offering a description of the concerns of each athlete and the training (including each of the above elements) plan Sims developed for the athlete, and the outcome of each case.

CW: body weights discussed here — Throughout the book Sims offers examples using body weight as a guide (ex: macro calculations for a woman weighing xxx lbs.) These numbers are often quite low, as are the body weights of the athletes Sims describes in her case study sections. The average woman in the U.S. weighs 170 lbs, but the women Sims writes about or uses for sample information weigh significantly less than that. Further, there is little discussion about how to manage macros for larger athletes, which may feel daunting to the many athletes at or above the “average” range. Lastly, I would note here that Sims uses some calculations that include BMI without further discussion about the problematic development and history of the BMI (although she does note that the BMI is less useful for some athletes and that there may be more useful tests.)

The final chapter offers different templates for putting all of this information into practice, including macro targets, training plans, and symptom tracking.

Final thoughts: I found the book to be informative in many areas, and I’m glad I read it. That being said, I don’t see a lot of implementation in my future, although I plan to talk to my trainer about lifting more heavy sh*t. As someone who Sims would likely categorize as active but not an athlete I’m much more focused on functional fitness (like getting my 70 lbs dog in/out of the hatchback), but I’d gladly take some relief from perimenopause symptoms, some of which are hitting me hard. I think Sims falls down in two areas in this book, the first (fat-phobia and body weight) I’ve already covered. The second is Sims reliance on relatively small studies to strengthen her claims, which she (accurately!) says identifies a lack of research done with people who menstruate/experience menopause. Where I think Sims shines in this book is her ease in breaking down medical/scientific terminology into layperson terms, and in her encouragement to start small/slow and work up to the plans she includes here. This type of staggered implementation may help readers avoid overwhelm and injury.

Amy Smith is a professor of Media & Communication and a communication consultant who lives north of Boston. Her research interests include gender communication and community building. Amy spends her movement time riding the basement bicycle to nowhere, walking her two dogs, and waiting for it to get warm enough for outdoor swimming in New England.

Book Club · fitness · monthly check in · winter

Checking in for December and 2021 in general, looking ahead to 2022

I’ve been putting off writing this blog post and that is not a very good sign. I usually write for the blog quickly and cheerfully.

I don’t think I’ve felt as apprehensive about a new year in a very long time. I want to be hopeful and positive about better post pandemic times ahead. But I’m also frightened that they won’t be better. Even wishing people a happy new year felt sketchy. I mean, I did it. But I felt like I should knock on wood after or something.

I also know I should feel lucky for how wonderful the lives we have are in the global and historical scheme of things.

Add climate change and increasingly polarized politics, fueled by racism and misogny, to the mix of things I’m worried about and I just want to throw the blankets over my head and emerge in spring.

It’s been a very hard year. Sometimes I confess I’m tempted by this kind of message about how I feel about it but that’s not quite right either.

Bitmoji Sam putting out the trash that was 2021

I also don’t want to ignore the month and year that was. Time might be a bit blurry but it has its own significance. Someone joked on Twitter today, “Today is March 674, 2020.” And truly there are ways in which it feels like time has stood still. But I’m resisting that way of thinking partly because I watch my adult children growing and changing through these difficult times. They have a lot to teach me.

I have enjoyed an awful lot of things relevant to the blog–like very long trail rides and weekends away bike camping, canoe trips, and most recently yurt camping with my eldest child. I’ve missed people and parties and travel, but this year, unlike 2020 I at least got to spend time with my adult kids.

We looked at last year’s holiday pics and laughed. I couldn’t even remember what we did. It turns out we exchanged food and gifts in the backyard on the 24th and opened them on Zoom together the next day.

On the left, is Christmas 2020. Here we are wearing our holiday oodies (joke gift meant to keep us warm while meeting outside–they’ve actually been getting a lot of wear) in two separate bubbles, Guelph child and me on the left and the London sibling bubble on the right. On the right, Christmas 2021, is Christmas dinner, missing Susan who is taking the photo, but includes all three kids and me and my mother actually eating a meal together.

We gathered over the holidays as a fully vaccinated family and rapid tested on Christmas Eve. We know that’s not perfect but we’re a small group. We were going for multiple layers of imperfect protection, the swiss cheese model as they’ve been calling it.

Although my December posts have also often served as year end reflections, I’m not sure I have it in me this year.

I did have one good thought about winter’s very short days though. While we were yurt camping, I realized the urgency we felt about getting out and about in the daylight hours. If you’re biking in the morning and hiking in the afternoon and it’s starting to get dark just after 4 pm, that doesn’t leave a lot of time. It’s the one upside of short days, time in the light feels precious and special.

Bruce National Park Yurt Camping

I wondered about using the same approach to thinking about life during the pandemic. It’s reduced in various ways but maybe that means we focus in and enjoy what we do have. I did love bike camping this summer. I might plan for some more bike camping trips. I’ve always wanted take a cycling holiday in PEI and on the Gaspé Peninsula. Even if we don’t get to travel as much in the future, there’s an awful lot to love right here. Right? Right.

A few people in the blog community have talked about 2022 as the year of smaller pleasures.

Let’s officially make 2022 the year of tiny pleasures, says one woman to another while walking through the woods in the snow

Planning for the year ahead, will definitely include bike trips and canoe trips.

What else to report in planning for 2022?

My word of the year is integrity. I’ve been feeling the need to be grounded in my values and be less swayed by crises and the currents of popular opinion.

I’ve signed up for 30 days of Yoga with Adriene. I’ve approached it different ways in different years. Sometimes doing the class for that day whenever I’d normally do some yoga. Sometimes I’ve done the whole 30 days but spread out over many more.

I completed my 2021 distance challenge–see I did it!–and I might aim for higher next year. We’ll see.

Sam’s Strava Year in Review

I’ve signed up again for 222 workouts in 2022–but I’m going to need to work on variety. It can’t all be Zwifting and dog walks and YWA. With the gyms closed again, I’m going to need to get back to lifting and other forms of strength training. We’ve got lots of resistance bands, and a TRX, and even a kettle bell. I just need to pick them up occasionally. Come spring there might be some backyard personal training but there are months to go before then.

Not so much fitness related as mental health and overall well being related, I’ve signed up again for the Goodreads Challenge, pledging to read 25 books in 2022. You pick the number. I met my goal of 24 in 2021. My first book of 2022 is The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki, which I’m loving. I’m happier when I make space in my life to read fiction.

My knee still hurts, both knees now, a lot. But all non-emergency surgeries are on hold again in Ontario due to the pandemic and I am going to not think too much about knee surgery. I’m going to try to do what I can to make peace with the knees I have, more knee physio and definitely more riding.

Happy New Year all! (And knock on wood.) I’m sorry these aren’t rosier or more upbeat messages but that’s where I am. I did get to have a lovely Christmas with the kids and a fun and relaxing New Year with Sarah and friends at her family farm. Life is good even if I am not riding my bike in Florida as planned.

Jeff is enjoying the Florida Keys and you can read about his adventures here.

Escapade in Marathon, Florida.
Book Club · Book Reviews · dogs · fitness · walking

It’s Bluetoque time!

Two photos, side by side: Sam in her bluetoque, Cheddar on the walk. Text reads “Bluetoque, audiobook and after dinner dog walk.”

Christine blogged about hers first. We’re both big fans of our hats with bluetooth headphones built in. I think I even bought mine after reading her positive review because it turns out we were both struggling with the same thing–finding fully charged headphones and a hat and a dog leash, poop bags, and a dog (okay the dog part is easy). It was starting to get in the way of taking Cheddar out for a walk between meetings back when I was working from home.

Having one fewer thing to find was just what the doctor ordered. Also, between glasses and headphones and in the worst of the pandemic, masks, my ears were just too busy.

If you’ve got a 🐕 you’re out walking two or three times a day. Now luckily I’m not the only person walking Cheddar. I find with my painful knees I need something to distract me from pain while I’m out walking. Audio books do the trick.

Lately I’ve been making my way through everything Tana French has written. Some of her work I’ve read and some of it I’ve listened. Good both ways but they are excellent audio books. Currently listening to The Searcher, see image below.

Audio books have helped me increase the amount of fiction in my life. Sarah and I listen to books in the car while we drive back and forth to Prince Edward County. But mostly I listen to books while either cleaning the kitchen and/or walking Cheddar.

It’s helping me make progress with my Good Reads reading challenge even with my return to working in my office.

More bluetoque photos! Also blond dog and beautiful yellow fall leaves