Kim’s Tour de Yorkshire*

*… in which Kim is bested by some outrageous hills, but not broken in spirit.


(A mosaic of images from West Yorkshire: Kim’s bike, saddle first, with the moors in the distance; a road sign that says “that was so Hebden Bridge”; Kim and her bike in front of a stone wall that says “lane end”.)

Remember how I always go on about hills? How I like them and am good at them?

Into each one’s life…


(A road sign that says “Cragg Vale: longest continuous gradient in England. Rises 970 feet (295m) over five and a half miles (9km)”)

I spent the first 10 days of July in the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, famously home of the Bronte sisters, and the 2015 Tour de France Grand Depart, depending on your fetish. (Mine involves both – swoon.) There is tonnes to do in the pretty market town of Hebden Bridge, but my bike was with me so my first priority was the riding.

Here’s the thing about Yorkshire, though: it is a cycling Mecca (for mountain as much as for road riders) because the fine folk who built the lanes don’t believe in switchbacks.

If you’re going to do a road ride in the Calder, you need to be prepared to climb. Doesn’t matter what you do: there is ascent to be faced. I wanted, in particular, to partake of the fine views over the moors that make this part of the British Isles justly famous; that meant I really needed to be ready to get up off the saddle, early and often.

No problem! I thought. After all, I might not be a tiny cycling whippet, but I’m really good at that shit.

On my first day out, I chose a route (from the several on offer at the excellent Calder Valley Cycling website) that included a long, snaking climb with most gradients in the 5-10% range. That’s my preferred kind of climbing: you can sit and grind, and if, like me, your strengths lie with endurance sports, you’ll not max out and will really enjoy the challenge and the views. Although I won’t lie, I was nervous to start, I felt great throughout that climb as the sun broke through the clouds, and I was rewarded with some sloping descents and then a short punch up into the farm lanes above Sowerby and Mytholmroyd.


(Kim, in white cap and green helmet, smiles into the camera with green, sloping farmland in the background.)

As soon as I hit the lanes, though, I got my first taste of what was to come the rest of the week: narrow roads that don’t look like much to start, but wow, do they pack a punch, and sometimes when you least expect it.

Still, with the gorgeous views all around me and the happy feelings from the winding climb still in my arms and legs, I shoved my worry to the back of my brain. I took the set route’s lovely descent through Cragg Vale, the longest continuous climb in England, down toward Hebden, and then thought to myself: it’s cheating to go down but not up. So I turned around and did the climb (another happy, winding, mid-grade number), just to know that I could.

All in all, then, day one was terrific. But I knew it wouldn’t last.

My second ride out proved my rude awakening, though in a way I found really instructive: I learned a lot about myself as a cyclist that day.

I left in the early afternoon, and chose a short route with a big challenge: Cross Stone Road leaving Todmorden for more gorgeous views over the moors. The information online said the climb included a short punch of less than 1km followed by a longer, flat stretch, and then a steep but shortish kick up to the top. I reasoned that the word “short”, repeated a couple of times, meant I’d be fine.

Yup. Nope.

After missing my turn on the way into Todmorden and having to backtrack, I found myself on a steep but manageable residential road. I made the mistake of standing and pushing hard at this point, taking the “short” thing literally. Mistake number one! I found soon the road was not levelling, and I had to sit and push hard, breathing at my threshold, for a good 500m before the flat began. I heaved through the growing heat (Yorkshire is not hot, but sun plus no wind plus exertion is what it is), and prayed the second bit would hurt less.

Then the second bit heaved into view.

To say I was slow would be an understatement. The walker I clocked about 200m ahead of me as I began the punch ultimately beat me up the hill – though in my defence I had to stop twice: once to negotiate the single lane with a grocery van, and once just because I needed to cry a bit and ask god to save me. (I also needed to catch my breath: you can’t ride at VO2 max for as long as I was taking to get to the top, and not risk puking, which I did not want to do in full view of the confused sheep around me.) But I made it on two wheels: crying and praying or none, I refuse to walk any hill I’ve started on the bike.

I’m vain like that.

The rest of the ride was hard: I was spent from the climb. I got back to Todmorden, snapped some photos of the start of the climb to remind myself of the pain I’d endured, and home I went to eat.


(Kim’s grey and orange bike against a stone wall, with a prominent white road sign that says “cross stone road”.)

The rest of my Calder rides varied between these two poles: long, picturesque climbs I’d ride again and again, and short, painful bursts of 18-22% gradients that I was convinced I had to do in order to prove I could, but that made me hate myself, my bike, and the world for the 5-10 minutes required to finish them.

Over the week, I began to think I had hold of the wrong end of the saddle, so to speak.

My first clue came from Strava. I’m a Strava junkie, and I uploaded my rides immediately upon each return. The long climbs were full of riders, many of them pro or semi pro. (My proudest moment: learning I was 32 on the leader board for the climb up to Oxenhope, with the British cycling star Emma Pooley at number 6. Squee!)

But hardly anyone did the crazy steep climbs: I’d be among 300-400 riders on the winds, but maybe one of 20 on the punches. I scored 8th overall on the climb where I stopped twice, for heaven’s sake! I think there were 11 or 12 of us in all.

Then there was the part where I felt joyous and free on the winding climbs, but sick and demoralised on the punches. Where I wanted to climb more on the winds, but I wanted to stop, cry, and turn around on the punches.

I wouldn’t let myself stop, though, because I thought stopping meant failing. It hadn’t occurred to me that, since punching is not my strong suit, maybe I shouldn’t have attempted those routes. Maybe they were not fun – not even a fun challenge, just a terrible, unhappy slog.

I’m a big proponent of challenging myself in sport, but the challenge needs to be both challenging and, ultimately, rewarding. I did not feel rewarded on any of those little punches; I was just grumpy and out of breath. What good is that?

On the train back to London I thought about this. Why did I really want to conquer the brutal little hills, when I train best, get stronger faster, and feel more satisfied on longer climbs? Why did I care about 500m at 20%, when as a cyclist I’m best suited to 5km at 5-7%?

Sure, you could say all climbing is learning, and all learning good training.

Except: the more I pondered it, the more I realised it actually, for me, had to do with body image.

I am not small: I am 174cm tall and I weigh 77kg. It doesn’t matter much that my fat to muscle ratio is such that I’m technically athletic; that’s still a huge amount of weight to haul up the side of a cliff, on the vertical.

My strength profile means I can kill a shallow climb, but my body weight puts me at a significant disadvantage the steeper you get. And that’s fine: there are climbers and sprinters and all-rounders in the world of cycling as a norm.

But for a girl alive and well under patriarchy, being too heavy to climb a steep hill easily has other reverberations; it smacks of the whole body-mass-index culture that tells us to be teeny, already, or hate ourselves forever.

And readers of this blog all know where that kind of thinking leads.

(My body mass index makes me technically overweight, just as my muscle ratio makes me technically athletic. Thanks, stupid and ineffective measures!)

Through one lens, you could say I learned in Yorkshire that I’m too heavy to punch, and should admit defeat and move on.

Through another, you could say I learned that I’m fit and strong enough to rate in the top 10% or better on iconic climbs that the pros even find challenging.

That punching is not what I’m good at, and so I need not worry about punching just for the heck of it when I could be winding up a mountainside, happily, instead.

And that, hey: if the walker beats you to the top, maybe you should just walk, already, and save the bike for another stretch of road.


A love letter to my bike, and others

Sam gave it away on Facebook this week: today’s post is about my time at bike camp in Table Rock State Park, South Carolina. We got back a week ago today, and man, do I ever wish I was still there.


A view of the southern Appalachians from the top of Caesar’s Head in South Carolina. The skies are unsettled, cloudy and grey; the mountains are blue-grey. There is a lookout and a tree in the near right distance.

The riding was really hard and really fun, and as I predicted in my post last month, I was ready and managed some (for me) good finishes. I’ve got goals for next year, and absolutely, I’m already planning to head back (maybe even in the fall, by myself… stay tuned).

Susan reminded us recently, though, that the bunch of us who contribute regularly in this space have a tendency to toot the old horn. Not that this is a problem – women, own your awesomeness, PLEASE! – but it is sometimes, I suspect, a bit much. Maybe a little bit smug. Because fitness and athletics is all about failure, as well as success. You can’t have one without the other.

I didn’t have any epic fails at camp, but I did have a few moments when I got hit, hard, with the reminder that being on my bike is not about anything more than being on my bike. That’s enough. And women, is it ever glorious and powerful! Just to be able to do this wonderful thing called riding my bike when I want to.

I wanted to share three of these small, but precious, moments with you.

On our first day, my group (“B”) rode up Paris mountain, near Traveller’s Rest (a groovy suburb of Greenville. GOOD COFFEE!). It was my first mountain ride in a while – even though by mountain standards Paris is a bit small (20 minutes to the top, give or take). But on this day, the snow had fallen early in the morning, and it was still clinging to the branches at the upper elevations as I rode into the clouds. Blossoms and snow… it reminded me of time I spent in Japan, and felt quiet and magical as I moved through it. I stopped breathing heavily; I slowed my pace a bit so my heart rate could catch up with the scenery. I wished I could stop to take a photo but was pretty sure that would mean I couldn’t start up again… so I just drank it in. That was, I think, the right call – even though we didn’t get the chance for snaps at the top because The Law was chasing us down… apparently, at the summit, we were trespassing on state property!


This photo shows the sun shining through evergreens, which sport snow on their branches. It’s from Paris Mountain, but I did not take it. 

On day three, we all did the Caesar’s Head climb. Caesar’s is the big challenge in the area, and I was geared up for it. My time was 48:02 according to Strava – maybe a little slower than I’d dreamed, but better than I’d hoped. We stopped for photos at the top this time (state park! Public access!), and enjoyed the accomplishment and the view.

That evening, I got a text from my ex husband and still very close friend, J. His step-mom had died while we were climbing. We were prepared for this, but the timing was a painful gift. As I was celebrating my strength – my love of my bike, and all the things I can do with my powerfully-aging, middle-aged body – she was slipping away.

I knew then that I needed to enjoy every minute on my bike from now on, and love it more than ever.

On our last day we climbed to the eastern continental divide, before getting packed up and heading home. I was, I confess, anxious to get on the road; we had 12+ hours of driving ahead of us and I really, really wanted to get back for Saturday, to clean the house, shop for groceries… Until I started climbing and swooping past the small communities on our way.

This was another magical climb: through clusters of trailers, shacks, and other makeshift spaces built into the mountains and valleys, every inch cozy homes. I slowed to enjoy them. I sped up to catch the others in my group. Then I slowed again, just taking the stillness, the loveliness, all in. Eventually Amy, one of my occasional riding friends from LonON, caught up to me; she’s a stellar athlete and climber. We chatted; I then pulled ahead to catch another rider, Derek, who was driving home with me. When we reached the divide, I was sure I’d posted a solid time.


This photo shows me next to the sign that reads “Eastern Continental Divide: elevation 2694 feet”. I am wearing a pink Castelli riding cap, my riding glasses, and my green helmet. I am sort-of-smiling; when I take selfies I always think I am smiling but that’s not always actually true.

I was wrong. My continental divide climb was objectively terrible; I was near the bottom, on Strava, on all the segments. UGH!

But subjectively – for me – it was glorious. Some of it hurt, but mostly it was magical (like Paris), a ride through a dream of quiet, utterly spellbinding landscapes. So I’ve decided not to care at all that Strava tells me I did shit on this particular ride. Because what I felt on this ride Strava cannot capture. And because what I did on this ride was not for Strava, anyway.

It was for Norma, god bless her, and her loving family.

It was for Ruby, my beloved bike and constant companion.

It was for me.



It’s easy to get lazy! Return to training during or after a cold? (Guest post)

Over the holidays I was hit by a pretty bad cold. 7 days straight of very high fever, sore throat, congestion, and coughing. My immune system is hyper-reactive and the nukes were out to destroy the bug. But it did not work this time. It lasted its full 10 days. And now beyond the 10 days I still feel somewhat congested.
Despite all signs, I went out running on day 5. Admittedly, I did not have any fever that morning and thought “That’s it, I am winning this!” This was a very slow run even if I felt like I was pushing. And at the end of the day I could tell by how I was feeling that it had been a mistake to go out. Did it extend my cold? Who knows. This is hard to say. And advice out there on whether one should run or train with a cold is sometimes contradictory. Most will say if you have fever, don’t. But unless one has a working and reliable thermometer (I don’t) it can be hard to tell (add to the mix the occasional hot flashes induced by peri-menopause and, voilà! Is it fever? Is it a hot flash?)
So after that 5th day outing, I waited another 4 days before engaging in any training. During that time, one wonders: am I just being lazy? Surely I could (should?) push myself and do it. When I did train, it was indoors because I was still somewhat feverish and did not feel like running outside in the wet cold. So I did weight training and leg exercises. I thought: “good plan! This won’t go against my less than optimal oxygen intake because of my congestion.” That was without thinking about muscular weakness caused by the cold. I don’t think I have ached like this in a very long time! I went out for a run the next day and pulled something in my thigh. Good job! But again, I was questioning whether I was just being lazy. It is so easy to get lazy, right? Stay warm inside and lounge on the couch, reading stuff and watching some TV (and doing work on the computer). One gets maybe too comfortable? So out I went to run a 7km!
But there are times when your body just needs to be lazy. It needs you to rest and fight what it has to fight. While you are reading, watching TV, killing time on Facebook, your body is hard at work fixing itself. It may be easy to get lazy but it may be necessary at times. This was one such time and I did not listen to my body.
Training is fun and exciting. I know I like it. But I have to learn to be patient with myself when I am sick and need my energy to fight whatever is assaulting me. Mostly, I have to shut up that narrative that makes me think I am just being lazy and should suck it up. I have to go back to working out in a way that does not throw me back into illness. This means a gradual return, testing the waters so to speak. So I need to be more patient with myself. Oh! And I also need to get myself a proper thermometer!

Fall Family Fun

I was skeptical when my beloved Michel encouraged our sons to go with us on my birthday ride last weekend. The weather was glorious, hitting 20C on Oct 10, a great birthday gift.

hebert clan

We met up with  Bike Rally David, Sam and Victor.

birthday ride

We also scooped up Mallory as we left town. It would end up being Victor’s longest ride to date, a total of 70 km for him! Happy 22nd birthday Victor! I try to forgive him for being half my age, he is a lovely human after all.

About halfway through the ride my youngest son, Eric, got a flat. David and Michel got to work replacing his inner tube on the side of the road. A few kilometers later he got another flat so we called in the Calvary in the form of Sam’s partner Jeff, who collected my two guys around the 30 km mark. That was definitely Eric’s longest ride to date and he was a real trooper. The rest of us ended up covering about 60km together then eating yummy food at the end and heading our separate ways.

On Monday, Oct 12, my partner and I celebrated 20 years of togetherness by doing a little GPS art in our neighbourhood.

20 years

It was another gorgeous day but the wind was up. Our little 20 drawing took 20 minutes and was 20m of elevation, a fun little project sheltered in town. We then went on to visit friends, eat yummy food and generally have fun.

Had you asked these folks what they would be doing after 20 years they probably would not have recognized the life we have now. These kids were in the military and very certain of what the future would hold.


I’m certainly thankful that my celebrations include a lot more activity, a lot less alcohol (sorry liver!) and a lot more people who are supportive and lovely.

I’ve learned enough now not to even have the faintest idea of what the future will hold so I’m focusing on short term goals and letting the rest figure itself out.


A Very Big Little Paddle

I have been going to Algonquin in late August for a back country canoe trip for the last 8 summers. Usually I go with my friend Sarah and we are often the only women pair that we encounter on our trip. Three summers ago, at the end of the season, I bought a Swift Algonquin 16 Kevlar Fusion Canoe. It has Carbon/Kevlar Gunwales and weighs 36 pounds. I blogged about the freedom that gave me here. Last year, Sarah couldn’t come and I took Sam. It was the first time I’d been “in charge” of a trip and between that experience and a feather light canoe, I was ready to take on more. What kind of more? Well, how about me, my two teens, three friends (Sarah, Sam and her daughter) and my 71 year old mother?


My mom has been saying for the past four years or so that she has always wanted to go on a real portaging canoe trip. When I came back last year, empowered by the freedom of that canoe, I knew I could make it happen and “it had better be sooner than later”, as my mom has observed.

My mom isn’t your usual 71 year old, although she is actually much like the folks who hang out at this blog. She came to fitness in her middle years and has been consistently active ever since. Her main thing has always been Pilates and the great thing about that system is it’s ability to scale up or down, depending on capacity, injury or illness. She has a trainer she has known for years who keeps her going. I told her as long as she could get in and out of the canoe and walk a path, she could do it.

She accomplished so much more. She carried some stuff and paddled pretty hard. She credits her swimming with giving her the strength to paddle like she did. She got in and out of the tent in whatever way worked for her and she was constantly thrilled by the whole thing.

Mom by her tent

Mom by her tent

The element of that trip that struck me most was how we experienced a mutual appreciation of each other that we had perhaps left unnoticed for many years. Like all moms and daughters, there have been “interesting times” between us. While most of that trash has been put out, the real understanding of where each of us are in our lives right now was not always at the forefront. But on this trip, she got to see a skill set of mine that was newer to her and I got to see how hard core she could be. I also got to give her time with her grand kids and grand dog that was super high quality. I got to feel like a good daughter and she got to feel like a good mom and grandmother.It’s not that we haven’t felt that before, but this experience somehow intensified this feeling between us.

It helped more that a lot that I had fantastic, supportive, hillarious friends with me. Sam and I drove our matchy matchy cars (Priuses)  with our matchy matchy canoes on top (she has a Swift Keewaydin 17, also with Carbon/Kevlar gunwales, although mysteriously heavier feeling at 47 pounds). Sarah and I had our competitive control freak moments. It’s only fair. She taught me everything I know about canoe tripping so asking her not to have an opinion is kind of impossible. Mallory kept her mother in line, on track and in the canoe (mostly, except the time she wasn’t). The children spoke actual words to us, a lot! And read books, paper books! My kids are usually delightful but this trip gave them an opportunity to step it up. It helped that they were actually having, you know, FUN. Finally, there was my Super Dog, Shelby. She has grown into a truly impressive canine canoe tripper. She stays still in the canoe, carries her own stuff, keeps away the chipmunks and is available for belly rubs at any random time.


This trip accomplished the kind of thing that you hope a trip will. It was epic on every level, the beauty of the place, the friendships and family and the smoothness of execution. It was a trip I could only do because of the investment of time in strength and skill that everyone of us made in our lives, especially evident in my mom. I hope it sets a good example for my kids but I will try not to pressure them about it. After all, both my mom and me waited until we were closing on 40 before we woke up to the possibilities our lives could hold if we started to mind our bodies. Yes, an epic trip. We might do it again next year. . .

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?


Eat! Don’t Eat! Holiday Magazine Mixed Messages

xmas-dessertFor over a month now Canadian magazines like Canadian Living and Chatelaine, similar to Women’s Day in the US, have featured holiday recipes–from baking to appetizers to Christmas dinner and Boxing Day brunch (that’s the day after Christmas, for those who live south of the Canada-US border)–these recipes don’t skimp on sugar, fat, chocolate.  See Chatelaine’s “Nine candy recipes to sweeten up the holidays” and Canadian Living’s Seven easy and impressive trifle recipes.”

And then there are the magazines, sometimes the very same magazines, that tell us how to navigate the holiday parties and buffet tables, the lunches and the dinners and the cocktail hours and the potlucks, the special treats left out at the office, free for all takers.

These articles prime us to deal with the excessive amounts of food available through the holidays. And they’re usually put in terms of survival, like “Survive the Holidays without Gaining Weight” and, on the Chatelaine website, “The Twelve Days of Fitness.

“The Twelve Days of Fitness” is a program designed to help us “beat the bulge” through the holidays:

Get ready to beat the holiday bulge! Together with celebrity trainer Ramona Braganza, we’ve designed a 12-day pre-holiday workout challenge to get you through the indulgent festive season and kick-start your fitness routine for the New Year. With Ramona’s 3-2-1 Method, you’ll get a full-body workout that combines three minutes of cardio, six minutes of circuit exercises and a one minute core exercise — for a total of just 10 minutes a day. Plus, every day Ramona will share a fitness or nutrition tip in an exclusive video (the same tips she gives to her star clients Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway and Scarlett Johansson). Get ready to follow along with our handy workout chart, below, and feel your best for the holidays.

Anyway, I don’t know about you, but to me these mixed messages — about indulgence on the one hand and keeping things in check on the other hand — are just annoying.

First of all, the whole idea of decadence and indulgence is irritating. As I’ve said before in my post on “Why Food Is Beyond Good and Evil,” if we don’t demonize certain foods they’re not as attractive.  But these foods are always set up as temptations that must be resisted.

I’m a big fan of intuitive eating, which encourages people to be mindful and pay attention to their hunger when eating. I find that if I am able to pay attention, I can pretty much eat what I want at holiday parties. The only thing I need to be aware of is the quantity.

For me, one of the worst feelings I can have is the feeling of having eaten too much. I’m not talking about the regret of it all. No, I mean literally the physical feeling of having put more food into my tummy than it can comfortably accommodate.

The idea that you can counterbalance day after day of mindless eating beyond comfort by doing a few workouts is also misleading. It just doesn’t work that way.  You can work out all you like, but eating more than feels comfortable is still bound to cause…well…discomfort.

My own approach to holiday eating is still a bit haphazard. As I said before, if I pay attention, then I can eat what I like and stop when I’ve had enough.  If I don’t pay attention, that’s less likely to happen.  I’m probably going to switch to auto-pilot and go beyond my comfort zone.

But I certainly don’t approach particular foods with the “I shouldn’t” attitude. And I like to think of the holidays as another one of those occasions, like vacations or illness or travel or being too busy at work, that can throw me off of my routine.

Rather than clinging to a workout schedule in order to “undo” what I did at a party or a dinner the day before, I like to stick as closely to my regular schedule of swimming, biking, and running as possible because it grounds me and makes me feel good. Sometimes, it’s the only part of my routine that I can keep in place.

The more grounded I feel, the more likely I am to take care of myself at all of the different events.  Stopping eating before I need to undo my belt is one way of taking care of myself.

But back to the mixed messages we see in the media at this time of year.  I think it’s worse for women. “Eat!” and  “Don’t Eat!” are just another version of the double bind that feminists have called our attention to for decades.

No different from “be sexy but not too sexy” and “be assertive but not aggressive” and “be career-oriented but not at the expense of your children,” the magazines encourage us to cook elaborate, high calorie foods, mostly for other people. We are either not to eat them, or, if we do, we are supposed to “reverse the damage” through exercise.

I understand that all of the festivities can be stressful and that tables full of food can overwhelm people. Of course, there’s a very good chance that mindfulness will elude us at times. But it’s a much more self-nuturing to approach the season with confidence that we can look after ourselves and slow down enough to make conscious choices about how best to do that.

Instead of getting caught up in the whole “eat” and “don’t eat” narratives, why not try instead just to “pay attention”?