My highest weight and feeling great?

That’s not how the whole body image & heart health narrative is supposed to go. I know. I’m supposed to struggle with my weight and health. Then, because I’ve sublimated my base urges and really learned to love myself, I miraculously transform into a thinner, better me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this great blog post by Heather Plett.

I just love it and she captured so much of what I have encountered. People LOVE imposing a triumphant narrative on my fitness. 
I’m not at war with my body. My body is not a thing to be dominated or warred against.

I am trying to figure out how to be healthy and joyful. I think I’m hovering or orbiting around that, I’m in the neighbourhood at least.

In July this Facebook memory came up:

I’ve tried a lot of things since 2014 and some of it worked for me, other stuff, not so much. I’ve tried mindfulness and abstaining from alcohol. I’ve tried losing weight. (Spoiler, I didn’t keep it off!)

https://fitisafeministissue.com/2015/02/20/40-years-40-lbs-guest-post/

I’ve though a lot about my cardiovascular health!

https://fitisafeministissue.com/2016/04/09/facebook-memories-and-blood-pressure-stories/

I’m back to the weight I was 3 years ago when my high blood pressure diagnosis (and offer of gastric bypass surgery by my doctor) happened. The thing is, I feel great!

I’m gardening, cycling a bit, playing soccer and occasionally working out. My blood pressure is right where it needs to be.

I do know if I put all my time and energy into tracking food and using all my self discipline for staying away from sweets and alcohol I do lose weight for a while. The things needed to do that make me super anxious and sad. I only think about food. It’s kind of awful.

Thing is, I use a lot of self-discipline to parent, take my university courses, be a grown up at work…lots of things. And here’s the deal, like many of my emotional and cognitive resources, I’ve only got so much to go around.

I love making delicious and nutritious food. I love craft beers. I’ve decided that until my blood pressure numbers change for the worse I’m good the way I am.

So I think the question is more of an exclamation. My highest weight and feeling GREAT!

Matilda The Hun, Mountain Fiji, and how the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling showed me how big, bold and badass I could be.

There’s a Netflix series called “GLOW” inspired by the 1980s pro wrestling series of the same name. 

When I was a kid in rural New Brunswick watching pro-wrestling was HUGE. It was such a big part of my exposure to professional sport that the very first time Sam asked me to write for this blog I wanted to write about it. But this is a feminist blog and pro/wrestling then and now is full to the brim with racism and sexism. I was embarrassed by how something I loved so much now seemed crude, crass, and low class. 

Pro-wrestling is nothing like Olympic style wrestling. It is all swagger and showmanship. It is character and plot arcs with a dash of athleticism. 

My absolute favourite characters from G.L.O.W. were Matilda the Hun and Mountain Fiji. They were large and in charge. They were villains and gave absolutely no fucks. None. They whipped the crowd into a fury then pummeled their opponents. 

I watched this clip, cringing at the terrible sexism and bad acting of the skits between the wrestling bits, but LOOK AT THESE WOMEN!

First Encounter: Matilda the Hun vs. Mountain Fiji
I look at that match and I’m so conflicted. Knowing what I know now about race, class, gender and sexism there are so many problems. From the male gaze to how women were cast based on racial stereotypes to reinforcing that feminity was desirable there is so much yuck.

But to 1980s me all I saw were badass women doing whatever they wanted. In the meantime I was in middle school gym class where girls were learning gymnastics and boys were learning Olympic style wrestling. 

I’m not sure which of us came up with the idea but my BFF Shelly and I convinced our gym teacher that we should be given a chance to wrestle each other. We wanted to be up on stage with the boys and I was really failing at uneven parallel bars. 

A 17 year old girl with short hair leans over a girl with 80s mall hair. They are laughing.

Me on the left, Shelly on the right. We loved being tough! This is 1992


Our teacher and classmates were completely unprepared for what happened next. Shelly and I broke out our best Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling moves: close lining, yelling, half-Nelsoning for nearly 20 minutes. We revelled in our redneck, working class awesomeness as the middle class kids looked disgusted. The other working class kids were cheering us on, calling out moves. It was so much fun. 

The next week I was back on the parallel bars trying to make my short, thick body do things lighter people did. It sucked. The girls who had taken gymnastics outside of school whirled around me. 

It turned out all that wrestling came in handy during recruit term at Royal Military College. Mattress jousting to entertain the senior students often devolved into grappling. 

Two youth in white t-shirts and grey shorts grapple on a blue striped mattress in a linoleum hall

I think I’m the one on top?


Matilda the Hun and Mountain Fiji were characters who didn’t worry about being attractive to men. They revelled in being villains. They weren’t scared of the crowd’s jeers, it powered them up. Most importantly for me, for a period of about 10 years of my life they were the only women in sport I could relate to, that felt real. 

I’m hopeful this new series will also be a chance to talk about the original G.L.O.W. stars and what they are doing now. 

Is there a sport or athlete that you identified with in your youth? Does it hold up to your scrutiny now? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

WisCon41 all the feels about disability 

I had a great time at WisCon last year and was delighted when David had offered to go together.  It’s a long drive from London, Ontario to Madison, Wisconsin but totally worth it!

This year I brought my swimsuit, running shoes and yoga mat. I did swim Thursday night to stretch after the drive down.

The rest of the weekend I managed to get 8-10 thousand steps a day. I’m not sure how but it may have been going further afield for food.

a thick brown pottery plate from the 70s is heaped with thick slices of golden french toast. This is topped with strawberries, blueberries, pecans, powdered sugar and creme fraiche

My new love, giant French toast

I slept much better this time around, largely due to not submitting for writing workshops which had made me a twinge nervous. I am committed to putting writing in next year though!

As last year, I loved the panels. I attended so many great sessions on everything from food and culture in sci-fi to unpacking portrayals of mental health in fiction.

Due to a mix up on my part I ended up in “Beyond the Fix or How Do I Live this F***ing Life?”

the photo is of the event schedule that indicates the topic is in the Feminis and Other Social change Movements stream of the conference. The panel short description: When you know there's no fix, your disability's never getting better, might get worse, and acceptance is the only possibility, it's time to share aka vent. On this panel we'll air our pet grievances, exchange survival strategies, and discuss the challenges - both surprising and predictable- of a life with disability. We'll also share the stories we've used to keep going. #beyond the fix
Friends, there were so many feels as folks shared their experiences of coming to understand disability and how it has impacted their lives. Many people in the audience were coming to realize that “disability” was a word that described their life too.

My favourite moment was when Jesse the K spoke about how she learned to shift her identity from an independent woman to being interdependent and connected in community.

I reflected on my privilege of living with Major Depressive Disorder and being able enough to stay fully employed. I thought about how my morning routine of stiff joints may hold greater mobility challenges in the future. I thought about my unilateral hearing loss and how my head tilts to put my good ear to a person talking. I thought about my intermittent vertigo. The stories shared by the panelists were on the continuum of ability and disability and I shift along those lines, mostly invisible.

There is a piece about fitness that I don’t talk about, the part where age & ability turn and mean I won’t get faster, better, stronger. Sometimes my goal is to simply slow the slide or manage pain.

It was humbling to really grapple with what my future will hold, especially around chronic pain, and I’m grateful for the mix up that lead me to sit in on this panel in particular.

The absolute best part was that I met even more of David’s lovely librarian friends, some of whom read this blog!

The weekend was just what I needed.

The photo is a headshot of Natalie, with her sunglasses sitting up on top of her head. She is outside waling to breakfast, smiling, wearing a necklace that is the anatomical structure of seratonin.
I feel great and, unlike last year, no mobility or pain from my travels. Just a wince at re-entering a patriarchal society.

My self-care tetradecathlon 

There’s been some big stress things happening in my life the past couple months and it’s starting to drag me down. So I’ve been ramping up my self-care. I’m not sure how many things there are but here we go. (Turns out there’s 14!)

  1. Cardio Mondays & Wednesdays with Anthony 
  2. Cxworx Tuesdays & Fridays with lots of work buddies
  3. Therapy 
  4. Walking my commute 
  5. Playing in my garden 
  6. Getting regular massages 
  7. Getting regular Chiropractic adjustments 
  8. Taking my blood pressure medication 
  9. Going to WisCon http://wiscon.net
  10. Acknowledging things are kind of shitty while taking time to find the good things in my day. 
  11. Offering and getting lots of hugs. 
  12. Celebrating successes the folks around me are enjoying 
  13. Tabletop and PS4 gaming with my family 
  14. Snuggles with my sweetie when I can pin him down!

My bike is ready to roll but we are getting 90mm of rain today. I’m focusing on keeping the joy in my cycling this season so no purposefully punishing rides and I’m ok with not meeting ideas of being tough or whatever. 

Movement is a big part of my self-care but I need the other things too if I’m to be resilient. 

I hope you aren’t going through tough times but, if you are, I’m sending you a big hug. There’s always time for that. 

Natalie, her two teenage sons and her partner sit on a floor looking content and leaning on each other. They are wearing hues of purple and blues and seem to be coping with life pretty well.

Taking a moment to enjoy my family

Managing my persnickety piriformis 

I joke that I carry my work stress in my shoulders and my family stress in my hips. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor once a month for many years to help manage joint and muscle pain. 

Often what causes me the most grief is my right piriformis. It’s a small muscle under the gluteus medius that wraps from the lower side of the tail bone to the top of your thigh bone. It’s the spot that aches in pidgeon pose. That little muscle does a lot of work when I sit, walk, run or ride my bike. 

Lately it’s been hurting a lot more. Part of it is from the lateral movements in the exercise class I go to. Another contributing factor is I’m a side sleeper so I rest on my hip. 

In addition to seeing a chiropractor I also get massages. I’m so grateful to have those two touchpoints in my month where I pay attention to how my body is doing. After an adjustment or a massage I feel the lactic acid flood the now relaxed muscles. My range of motion waxes and wanes between those visits. 

I decided I needed to do more as the pain has become more bothersome, waking me up in the night, causing me to grunt when I stand up out of my chair. 

I cobbled together a yoga flow that helped me. It covers the basics and warms up my hips before a good stretch. I love starting with Cat/Cow. It’s a great way to check in with my back and hips. I go into Threading the Needle on both sides, Child’s Pose, Downward Dog, Lunges moving back and forth, Pidgeon, Firelog pose and Cradle the Baby. It’s at times uncomfortable but I feel so much better after. My sleep has improved. 

I also found this great tutorial on dealing with piriformis pain. 

https://youtu.be/dl474z1bhnk
Sadly Kai Wheeler seems to no longer be producing material. I love her approach and instruction. The routine takes about 20 minutes and has been a good morning routine. 

A selfie of Natalie wearing sunglasses and a blue backpack. The smile lines on her face frame a slight grin, like she has just let you in on a very funny joke.

A selfie of Natalie wearing sunglasses and a blue backpack. The smile lines on her face frame a slight grin, like she has just let you in on a very funny joke.


My hip is still achy but I’m hopeful taking the time to care for it will give me some relief. 

The Reverse Weekend Warrior

My exercise routine has been sporadic this past month. There were caregiving responsibilities, March break with my family, and a nasty cold. 

I reviewed my activity data and was surprised to find my most active days for fitness were weekdays. What? In the warm weather I’m a Weekend Warrior, doing lots on weekends but little activity or exercise during the week. 

This winter and early spring are the exact opposite, I’ve become The Reverse Weekend Warrior by walking my commute and scheduling four half-hour workouts during the week. 

Natalie stares at the camera ruddy faced, her short mousy brown hair a mess in the background are brown lockers
It hasn’t been pretty but I do feel good in my body. I never got around to spinning on Thursdays and Saturdays. The previous winters I did spin for up to an hour on Saturdays and a few times during the week. Not this year. 

Four bicycles lean against a brown bedroom wall under a window. The room has trainers, bicycle pumps and other sundry items strewn about.
Poor Ethel, my bicycle, has sat unloved. 

I’m looking forward to the warmer weather so I can garden, ride my bicycle and have drinks on my porch. Who knows, my weekends may even catch up to my weekday activities. 

If that happens I’ve no idea what I’ll call myself!

Exercise and Staying in my Body

A broad stairwell, like the kind you find at major metropolitan train or subway stations, is filled with people walking up and down the stairs. The people are blurry, imperfectly captured in motion.

Life can get a bit blurry for me sometimes

I am standing in the stairwell trying to go down to my Tuesday afternoon exercise class. The world shifts to the right as I drift just left of my body. It’s disorienting and dizzying. My feet can’t seem to move and, from my slightly off to the side view, it’s very hard to tell how far down to step. 

I step back on the landing, cross my arms and rub my triceps and biceps.  I am back in my body. I am tired and stressed after a very difficult 7 days. I’m emotionally tapped out and the numbness of leaving my body doesn’t feel terribly bad. 

I realize I’m dissociating, for brief moments, and it is coming on more frequently. I never knew it had a name, this mental holiday that is fraught with a peril therapists understand but I don’t. I’ve always felt numb during or after bad times. I thought everyone did. 

So I am at the top of the stairs, dizzy, knowing this pause is making me late. I keep rubbing my arms and squeezing the muscles. I am here. I want to be here. The numbness passes and I shakily make it down, one step at a time. 

By the time I walk through the gym studio door I’m at full brave face, laughing, hip thrusting and joking the core muscle class is secretly designed to up my power-bottoming game. 

I know most of the folks in the class. Lovely, sparkly humans who are kind and encouraging  to me always. The music starts and the worries fall away as I listen to the rapid-fire-flirty-funny instructor lead my body through a sweaty thirty minutes. I am in my body and it feels good. I feel strong. I feel capable. 

The next day I run with Anthony. Neither of us is feeling 100% but we are there, exercising to keep our minds and bodies ok. 

On Thursday I am stiff and sore. The discomfort keeps me in the moment and I am ok. I am present. I’m choosing to stay here and deal with my life. 

I’m so thankful for movement keeping me in my body. I feel the hugs, fist bumps and pats on the back as my support network ramps up the love. 

I used to think exercise was about running away from my problems. Now I’m exercising to deal with my life, to be present as healthily as I can be.