body image · feminism · fitness · health · philosophy

Body image: the blog’s most popular topic

Image description: Pic of Sam (left) and Tracy (right) both smiling (photo credit Ruth Kivilahti) with text "Episode 69 Body Image with Samantha Brennan and Tracy Isaacs" and "PURPOSEFUL STRENGTH" and a quote "The difference is the treatment from etc external world. There are some kinds of oppression that larger people cace that smaller people don't but I think the internal stuff we all share." Borrowed from Sarah Polacco's Instagram.
Image description: Pic of Sam (left) and Tracy (right) both smiling (photo credit Ruth Kivilahti) with text “Episode 69 Body Image with Samantha Brennan and Tracy Isaacs” and “PURPOSEFUL STRENGTH” and a quote “The difference is the treatment from etc external world. There are some kinds of oppression that larger people cace that smaller people don’t but I think the internal stuff we all share.” Borrowed from Sarah Polacco’s Instagram.

Body image continues to be the blog’s most popular topic among readers. It’s been like that since the beginning. Over three years ago Sam blogged about “Why a fitness blog cares so much about body image.”

For one thing, our readers care. But also, body image and fitness are inextricably tied together in many people’s minds. Especially as feminists, we are keenly aware of the way mainstream fitness narratives usually include thinness or at least weight loss narratives in central ways. It is highly unusual for someone to think of fitness independently of dropping pounds or getting leaner or needing to look a certain way (even if that way isn’t necessarily realistic or healthy — see “She May Look Healthy But…Why fitness models aren’t models of health”).

What’s interesting too is that Sam and I have very different personal body image stories, though we agree (as we frequently do) about the bigger picture of why it matters, why it’s a struggle for many women, and why we need to continue to give it attention on the blog.

We shared our latest thoughts on body image with Sarah Polacco for her amazing podcast, Purposeful Strength. You can find her podcast on iTunes, and if you’re interested in hearing our discussion of body image, check out Episode 69, out just this week. Here’s the iTunes link, but you can also find it on Soundcloud and no doubt other platforms.

fitness · philosophy

Words (not mine) to live by

This week, philosopher Ken Chung died of pancreatic cancer.  He was 39, and a friend and former student of people who read and write for this blog.  I never met him, but I did get a chance to read his blog— some essays and thoughts on life and death and cancer and philosophy.  I read his essay, “Struggle”, here, and found some words of his that really resonate with me–about life, about movement, about self worth, about work, about love– well, they may work for just about anything.  Here they are below:

  • Try to maximize the amount of work that you enjoy doing for its own sake, and minimize the work you do only because of its results.
  • Try to find a way to love the process over the outcome.
  • Try to accept the fact that success depends on factors outside our control, and try to allow only what is within our control — for instance, the efforts we make — to affect our state of mind.
  • Try to see that we’re playing with odds here, and that even though we know that the harder we work, the greater the disappointment, greater too is the likelihood of success.

What about this passage speaks to me?  That life is lived in the moments and weeks and years of untidy process:  of slogging, restarting, retooling, zigging and zagging, plowing through, grumbling, and persevering.

This is exactly how feminism informs fitness for me:  that the process and the experience  of putting out effort is what we spend virtually all of our time with (as opposed to the moment of finishing or accomplishing or abandoning, etc.) .  My approach to fitness is littered with plans and goals and hopes and expectations and fears.  But the process is really what matters–what is it like on my yoga mat, on the saddle of my road bike, in the cockpit of a kayak?  Answer:  sometimes good, sometimes painful, sometimes boring, sometimes sublime. Mostly ordinary.

Tomorrow I’m taking a day for myself to go for a solo ride up on the North Shore of Massachusetts, around Gloucester and Rockport.  The coastline is sublime, and the weather should be fine–a little cool but sunny.  I’ll be thinking of Ken and his wife and his friends and family.  And I’ll be turning the cranks and taking in the scenery, on my way to the next thing around the corner.

Here’s to life.

The author, posing confidently on rocks by the ocean on Massachusetts' north shore, despite the fact that she's wear cycling shoes with metal cleats and standing on a rock.
The author, posing confidently on rocks by the ocean on Massachusetts’ north shore, despite the fact that she’s wear cycling shoes with metal cleats and standing on a rock.