We’re doing it all wrong, the escalator version

Also, Cate and Sam, both fast walkers who like to zoom by people standing on the right on escalators start to think more about disability and escalator etiquette.

Image of an escalator, grey, with the word "walk" on the left side in green and "stand" on the right side in orange.

Act 1: The story begins
It all started with friends are sharing this story on Facebook, Why the escalator etiquette of ‘stand right, walk left’ is wrong.

As with zipper merge our intuitions about fairness are getting in the way of doing what’s most efficient. You know the zipper merge issue, right? We’d do best, use up the most space on the road, and merge in the most efficient way possible if we merged at the last moment. But at least in Canada, we’re very polite. It feels wrong to zoom in the the lane that will end and merge at the last moment. And because they’re convinced it’s unfair, people don’t let you in. Other drivers enforce the norm of fairness. Of course you wouldn’t be zooming in an empty lane if everyone did it. That’s the problem. And the other problem is that the politeness point, the point at which merging is thought to be fair, gets moved further and further back, and you have lots of one lane unused.

See How Canadian Politeness is Killing Efficiency.

So it’s a case where our well developed norms of fairness get it wrong. We’d be better off zipper merging at the last possible minute.

But that’s not our concern here. Today it’s the escalator and a different politeness norm, that of “walk left, stand right.” As someone who zooms up escalators past all the standing people, I like that rule. And on days when I want to stand I like standing right, knowing that I’m not in anyone’s way. What’s the issue? Well, the problem is that many more people stand right than walk left and elevators wear out unevenly. Owners of escalators want us to abandon our norm of stand right, walk left.

The London Underground took down their “walk left, stand right” signs after deciding it is more efficient for everyone to stand. The Nanjing Metro did the same.  And so did the TTC here in Toronto. But removing the signs isn’t enough. Most people still think that “stand right and walk left” is the etiquette rule for escalators.

So how do you do away with a norm that’s strongly grounded in deeply held beliefs about fairness? It’s tricky.

 

Poster that says "keep in mind that the right portion of the escalator is for standing while the left is for walking." There are three people on the right standing and one on the left walking.

 

Act 2: Sam and Cate sound all judgey about standing

Also, you might ask, Cate and I did anyway, why do more people stand right than walk left? We asked on Facebook, why aren’t more people walking? We sounded pretty judgey about it. WALK PEOPLE!

Admittedly maybe we should have thought first before issuing commandments about walking but luckily our friends are good at correcting us. I like that about my friends.

You see at first I speculated that it’s the good side/bad side of universal design and the idea of “build it and they’ll come.” What do I mean? Well, mobility aids like escalators and moving sidewalks are terrific for reasons of accessibility.

In the case of the escalators I encounter most often, the ones on the TTC, they serve to make public transit, access to the subway, more accessible. And the universal design aspect is cool. You build them for people with disabilities but it turns out that lots of people–tired people, people who are unstable on their feet, people carrying babies, groceries etc prefer them.

But, here’s the bad side. In a society where there is a rise in extreme sedentary behavior, where there are people for whom making a meal is a workout, who drive to work, sit at a desk and watch TV all night, escalators are part of the problem. I worried about this in my post about home elevators.

So one thing, escalators, can be part of one solution–making transit and more places accessible–and part of another problem, increasing rates of extreme sedentary behavior.

Act 3: Sam and Cate get schooled (rightly) about disability

As one person pointed out on our Facebook discussion of this page, “Just stop it. I can’t walk up the escalators and you can’t tell who is disabled by looking.”

Agreed. Agreed.

Another friend wrote, “Apart from the ableism concern (which is important), it’s worth noting that there’s a difference between a short escalator at a mall and long, steep ones to/from subways (what the column opens with). Even for folks with no mobility issues, not all escalators equally walkable.”

Agreed.

More friends chimed in. “I’m young and a runner, hiker, cyclist and as part of training have run stairs.But a few years ago I developed fascia constriction in my calves (part genetics, part a result of being super active and using the crap out of my jacked calves). I do physical therapy for it, but it is chronic. On many days I can run and walk miles but I cannot take even a short set of stairs without experiencing profound pain- enough to drop me to the ground and make me cry.Feel free Sam to use my story in your post.”

I went off and read some more things about movements to get people to climb stairs and the anti-ableist critique of the campaigns.

See Elevator Shaming and Why Pro Stairs Health Campaigns Kind of Suck and Elevator Shaming.

I wondered how can we nudge people to walk more while at the same time not making those who can’t feel nudged and guilty? Is there a nudge we can make that’s not ablest?

Here is a bad kind of nudge. Imagine if you get in an elevator on the ground floor and pressed 2 and a recorded voice says. “Do you know that’s only a single flight of stairs? Do you need to use the elevator? If so press 2 again.” That’s pretty awful for the person in the wheelchair. Worse for the person with a less visible disability who may feel pressured to explain to others in the elevator. This idea is discussed here.

I remember that I used to feel funny using the elevator when I had a stress fracture. I couldn’t walk, certainly not upstairs, but I was allowed to ride my bike to work.

Act 4: Other solutions

Why are walkers on the escalators anyway? Maybe we are the ones who should change our behavior and take the stairs. Now as Tracy pointed out having more stairs available is great. I love that at Pearson airport in Toronto. When I get off a flight I charge up the stairs while there is a wait to get on the escalator.It’s the joy of travelling with a backpack rather than a wheelie suitcase.

Seems we’re all chiming in here. Sarah says the real issue is car culture and driving and that things like escalators are a drop in the inactivity bucket. Don’t you dare blame universal design here, she says. It’s all about driving and cars.

And then my good friend Sally said maybe no one cares about efficiency. Let the treads on escalators wear out unevenly. How bad is that? If the stand right/walk left norm allows standers to stand comfortably and speedsters to zoom by without worrying, maybe it’s a good rule to have even if it comes at a price?

Why should we care about efficiency at all costs? You know what? I think maybe that’s right. Me, I’m going to continue to walk left, zoom left most of the time, and when I’m tired, stand right.

How about you? What do you think?

Why I won’t be running a marathon anytime soon (guest post)

by Alison Conway

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Image description: this color photo shows Alison Conway, a tall blond woman dressed in running tights and long sleeves with neon pink shoes and race bib number 3519, coming through the finishing arch (a red inflated archway that says “Running Room” and “Start/Finish” at the end of the Sarnia Half Marathon. She is flanked by two other runners, also in black tights and long sleeves. On the pavement in front of them is painted the blue and white symbol for wheelchair accessible parking. It’s a grey cloudy day and people look cold.

I took up running after a hiatus of almost thirty years when I turned 50 in 2015. In my early twenties I suffered bad knees and the physio who treated them directed me to the pool. Three decades later I thought I’d try a 5 km running clinic and see how the knees held up. Two years later, I’m logging and loving the miles.

Since Nov. 8th, running has taken on a different significance. Now I start my runs full of rage and despair over what’s happening in America, full of fear that the same will happen here if either Kevin O’Leary or Kellie Leitch (two of the top three Conservative Party leadership contenders, according to the National Post 2/3/17) gains ascendency in Canadian politics. Guilt plagues me. I am running when I should be volunteering or protesting. I spend money on race registrations that would be better spent on larger monthly contributions to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Clearly I have been living with my head in the sand since I didn’t see Trump coming. Now I must atone.

But self-laceration is too easy and familiar. I couId spend the next four years in my head, spinning. Instead, I must sit down and make some hard choices. And one of my choices is to set a limit to how much time I spend running. I’ve been encouraged by friends to take on a marathon. I admire those in my running group who have overcome serious obstacles in their lives to achieve this goal, as well as those who use marathons to raise money for charity. I admire our coach, who is an advocate for at-risk youth and mental health services. But at this moment, whatever benefits I could list under “self care” when thinking about a marathon take a back seat to those I list under “other care.”

The challenge we face now is that each day asks us to make decisions about how much news we will consume, what contribution we will make, what action we will take. The marathon we are all running is the one that involves making these choices deliberately and mindfully, day in, day out, week in, week out, for the foreseeable future. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, panicked, frozen. We all have to pace ourselves.  It seems like a good time to ask hard questions of “self care,” to see how far it extends itself to helping those more at risk than ourselves.

We can be more deliberate about yoking our fitness goals to our political commitments.  I volunteer for Start2Finish, a reading and running group for at-risk children, and I practice the power pose with little girls every week. “Sweat is great!” is a common refrain; “Just keep running!” is another.  There are other programs aimed directly at fostering confidence in girls through running and we can all help to nurture young women by giving them our full attention as volunteers.

In our exercise communities, we can find ways to build relationships and trust with those who do not belong to our particular constituency—in my case, academia—in the hopes of enabling dialogue when so much divisiveness characterizes public speech. I talk too much, but lately I’ve been trying to listen better, to choose my words more carefully when I respond to ideas I consider ill-informed. I am finding out about the community work others are involved in, their sense of local politics and what’s at stake in mapping the future of the city we live in.  Now it’s time to take what I’ve learned to city hall, to become an engaged citizen rather than a passive observer. The old chestnut, “Act local, think global,” has taken on new, concrete significance since I decided to focus my attention on doing the next right thing.

What I can’t do is try to run away from the whole sorry mess we’re in, or turn my back on those who need my help and support right now. We need to run toward resistance, not away from it.  Maybe one day, for me, resistance will involve training for a marathon. But right now I have more urgent tasks requiring my attention.

Alison Conway is an English professor at Western University.  Her favorite workout is running the roads and trails of London, ON.

Undiagnosed eating disorders: another danger of our false assumptions about fit, fat, and food

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Image description: This is a color photo of a round white dinner plate with one green pea in the very centre of it. There is a silver fork to the left of the plate and a silver knife to the right. The background is plain off-white.

If you’re like most people, when you think of eating disorders images of extremely thin, maybe even skeletal, young (and probably white) women come to mind. Recently there’s been more attention paid to other demographics that might not be as easy to spot. We’ve talked about eating disorders among older women and men.

But there is another group among whom eating disorders go unnoticed: people who are viewed as overweight or fat. This oversight is not only a result of our default mental images connected with eating disorders. More pernicious than that, it stems from our cultural preoccupation with thinness and the idea that it’s normal — even recommended — for “fat” people to be dieting.

According to Alexis Conason’s article, “The Hidden Faces of Eating Disorders: Why People at Higher Weights Go Undiagnosed,”

A recent study (Lipson & Sonneville, 2017) examined 9713 students from 12 different colleges and found that body weight was the most consistent predictor of eating disorder symptoms. Students with a BMI in the “overweight” or “obese” range were at the highest risk and students with a BMI in the “underweight” range were surprisingly at the lowest risk. A history of elevated body weight is common in patients seeking eating disorder treatment. A 2015 study by Lebow et al. examined patients seeking treatment for restrictive eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, and found that over 36 percent of patients had a history of BMI above the 85th percentile. And disturbingly, symptoms in these patients are often not diagnosed until later and more severe stages of the illness. A 2013 article by Sim et al. that I wrote about in an earlier post found that eating disorder symptoms in adolescents with a weight history in the “overweight” or “obese” range not only were under-diagnosed, but symptoms were actually encouraged by medical professionals who congratulated these patients for losing weight.

Even medical professionals don’t think of overweight people who are severely restricting their food intake as having an eating disorder. We are so culturally obsessed with the idea of thinness as a body ideal that food restriction and extreme dieting are considered praiseworthy, enviable skills to be mastered. People are not recognized to be in peril unless they are dangerously thin.

When people are rewarded and admired for not eating, particularly when they’re viewed as “needing to lose a few,” no one (themselves included) will think they’re suffering from an eating disorder. I was diagnosed with anorexia by two different professionals when I was a graduate student and I didn’t believe them because I didn’t think I was thin enough to “qualify.” If someone doesn’t recognize themselves as fitting the mold, then it’s difficult for them to take in messages about dangers and prevention.

Eating disorder prevention and intervention efforts are often targeted at people in the “underweight” range while people categorized as “overweight” or “obese” are targeted for weight loss interventions. Fat people are told to diet, even though dieting is one of the strongest predictors for both development of eating disorders and weight gain. Isn’t it time we stopped prescribing behaviors to people at higher weights that are diagnosed as eating disorder symptoms in people at lower weights? Food restriction, purging food (either through laxative use, self-induced vomiting, or exercising to compensate for calories consumed), viewing foods as “good” or “bad,” and defining our self-worth based on the numbers on the scale are unhealthy at any weight. We need to recognize these symptoms as what they are—signs of an eating disorder—even when the person who is engaging in them lives in a fat body.

So if you didn’t think there were enough ways in which our assumptions about food and fat and fitness can be harmful to people who are perceived to be carrying extra pounds, here’s another to add to the list. Fat-shaming and the idea that fat people are supposed to be doing things to lose eight, and that dieting is one of those things, is a harmful camouflage that allows disordered eating to go undetected.

Why eating too little now can lead to awful things later, like broken bones

Around here we’re fans of athletic rather aesthetic goals and values. (Wow. that’s an old post. Dec. 2012. We’ve been doing this for awhile now!)

And mostly it’s true that athletic goals are healthier. But not always.

The case in point: stress fractures and bone health. Two friends this month have broken bones in their feet. They didn’t break them doing anything particularly athletic. Both, in fact, broke bones in their feet on their stairs at home. Both misjudged the bottom step. They’re now out of commission until spring. No more skiing though they might be better in time for outdoor cycling.

Ouch. Argh. Ugh.

Women are at higher risk for stress fractures than men, athletic women more so. What’s the story with that?

From web md, http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/picture-of-the-feet#1. It's a picture of the bones in the feet, a sketched foot skeleton against a blue background with the bones labelled.

The issue isn’t necessarily the athletic thing you’re doing now. In some cases it’s how you ate and trained as a teen and twenty something athlete. And it’s hard to care then about bone health now. Young you cares more about making weight for lightweight rowing or about making weight for fighting sports. Or just plain and simple losing weight and looking good.

This isn’t a new subject around here. I’ve written before about keeping bones strong. Guests have blogged about it too. See Osteoporosis is a feminist issue. Usually that’s a pitch for including lots of weight lifting/strength training in your life. But it’s also a pitch to eat well, and to eat enough when you’re younger.

What’s the connection? It begins with something called the Female Athlete Triad. That’s when  an athlete experiences loss of menstrual cycle, disordered eating, and osteoporosis. You needn’t have stopped your periods to have an issue. Many people think they’re not at risk but they menstruated through their eating disordered phase. But not everybody who eats little enough to damage their bones experiences loss of their menstrual cycle.

See The silent female health crisis.

See  To Thrive, Many Young Female Athletes Need A Lot More Food.

See Every Runner Should Know About The Female Athlete Triad.

It appeared today in my newsfeed too.

See this piece in the Globe and Mail: How female athletes’ eating patterns can affect bone health:

The endlessly repetitive impacts of high-level training – running, jumping, pivoting, cutting – often make such injuries seem like an inevitable occupational hazard for athletes. But a new study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, published by researchers at Stanford University, offers an important reminder that training isn’t the only risk factor: Eating patterns, and the broader cluster of conditions known as the “female athlete triad” predict stress fracture risk in female athletes with devastating accuracy.

The study followed 239 female student athletes at Stanford University, using data from preparticipation health questionnaires and bone-density scans to classify each of them as having a low, moderate or high risk of suffering a “bone stress injury” – a category that includes the hairline bone cracks known as stress fractures as well as less-severe precursors called stress reactions.

The risk assessment was calculated with an algorithm developed by a group of international experts on the female athlete triad, including Jenna Gibbs of the University of Waterloo and Marion Olmsted of the University of Toronto, and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2014.

The female athlete triad refers to the relationships between energy availability, menstrual function and bone mineral density. In athletes whose food intake doesn’t provide enough calories – after the demands of training are accounted for – to support necessary physiological needs, both menstrual function and bone health are compromised. The condition exists along a spectrum, and even mild problems in one of the areas may signal hidden or impending problems in the other two.

How common the problem is depends on who you ask. Endurance, aesthetic and weight-class sports tend to be particularly vulnerable because of the emphasis on low body weight. Studies have found that between a quarter and a third of elite female athletes in these sports have clinical eating disorders.

Go read the rest here.

Also, go back in time and give your younger self an apple and a sandwich. Take some young women out for pizza. And talk about bone health and why it matters.

Self care, world care: hoping it’s not either/or

Yesterday my friend Janet and I went cross country skiing at Foss Farm west of Boston.  It was a picture-perfect snowy day in the woods.

The woods at Foss Farm, ski tracks in the middle and trees all around.

On the way back home, we stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up a few things.  I ran into a fellow feminist philosopher (hi, Naomi!) in the produce section.  I noted my ski clothing and said what a wonderful day it was to be outside.  She replied that she had been at a demonstration in Cambridge to protest the Dakota access pipeline, and pointed out her very warm clothing.  We parted, planning to get together for a snowy walk soon.

It’s funny (interesting, not haha) that I should run into a friend who had been protesting instead of skiing that day.  Talking with Janet while enjoying the woods, I mentioned that I was really interested in going to the March for Science in Washington, scheduled for April 22.  But I can’t, because I had already scheduled to go to the East Coast Paddlesports kayak symposium in Charleston, SC.  I’ll be doing 3 days of on and off-water kayaking classes in warm water.  It should be great, and I am/was really looking forward to it.

Was? Why was?

Maybe it’s bad luck/timing, but I now count three times that I’ve missed chances to join others in public protest against political conditions that I consider dangerous for my country, the environment, and human rights.  The third miss-out was when I was at a cooking course at the Kripalu center in western Massachusetts on the weekend of the Women’s Marches.  I had scheduled that trip weeks before the election– who knew this would happen?

All of these things I’ve been doing or am planning are part of my efforts at increased self-care these days.  I’ve written about struggling with eating in healthy-to-me ways,  and also with physical activities that I love but in which I am  less adept/fast/comfortable/fit than I used to be.  So I made the conscious decision to shift my focus a bit.  I am teaching less (fewer overload courses, which means less money), going to fewer conferences, saying no to new projects (this is in itself a work in progress!), and doing more focused service at work and in my community (i.e. not saying yes to every shiny new opportunity).  I’m also trying (really, I am) to space out my social events– I love love love seeing friends and really hate to miss out on dinners, parties, etc.  In fact I’m going to try to go to both a lasagne dinner and a karaoke party next Saturday.  We’ll see how that goes…

Back to the conflict at hand.  Our time is limited, our energy is limited, our personal needs are real, and the needs of the world are wide and deep.  Lately it’s feeling like saying “yes” to myself results in my saying “no” to the world.  And maybe vice versa.  What to do about it?  How to find that seductive and elusive karmic balance in life?  I guess that’s what I’m asking.  At times like these it feels as mythical a goal as this:

 

an elephant balancing on a beach ball on the beach!

It’s funny I’m writing about the difficulty of balance, because I’ve always been good at balancing.  I skate (ice and roller), I ski (downhill in past, cross country from now until I expire), and I used to dance ( ballet, tap, modern) and still do recreationally when I get a chance.  I’m venturing into new realms of balancing– edging a kayak is an exercise in balancing yourself and the boat to optimize on the physics of forward motion and turning.  And yoga?  Yeah.  Don’t get me started on all the balancing that we’re supposed to do there.  Like this one:

Woman doing a forward arm balance on a yoga mat

Seriously, that is not happening.  But I found out just yesterday that I’m rather better than I used to be at this one:

Two children doing tree balance pose on a yoga mat

What I wish and hope is that getting stronger and caring for ourselves will open up new energy for caring for the world, which really needs our attention.  I’ve recently gotten involved in several teaching projects for minority STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students at my university.  It feels stimulating to develop two new courses (philosophy courses on race and racism, and also a science and values course).  Maybe I’ll figure out how to make time for protests.  Or maybe protests won’t be the route for me– there’s lots of work to do to forward the causes of justice (however we see it).

Readers, how have recent world events shaped your time and energy and balance?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

 

Guest Post: Moments of Glory (Horseback Edition)

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Breaking from a trot to a gallop.

Growing up in the prairies, I rode for most of my life. I was terribly allergic to horses– (probably the dust and hay in the stables, actually.) But I was one of those girls who freaking loved horses. So, cowboy boots on and tissues up my nose to stop allergy-induced nosebleeds, I insisted on riding.

The horse’s name was Miss Terrific and she was a sweet and temperate horse, as her name would suggest. She was probably a quarter horse, which is a very common breed. But in my mind, she was an Arabian (a beautiful and mystical breed—think The Black Stallion—they carry their heads very high and have distinctively angular faces).

The Taylors were a kind and hospitable older couple who owned the property (and horses) where I rode. I had started riding with them when I was about eight or nine. My sister was a bit too young to ride (and not that interested in horses as much as she was into the sheep on the property and the three-storey tree house). So while I rode, she spent her time as Queen of the Sheep.

I was in the sandy arena with the others in the class, a mix of kids my age and adults who would bring their own horses to the lessons (which were about $10 an hour, if you can believe that!). Dan Taylor was our instructor, an older man who was pure, distilled Alberta with a bit of a drawl and a dirty white cowboy hat he always wore. His wife, Dawn, rode in the arena with us with her beautiful grey-and-white spotted horse and would demonstrate for us what we were supposed to be doing. She and her horse always seemed so impossibly in sync with one another; as if her horse could read her mind. Dawn would barely gesture and the grey-and-white would respond immediately, seamlessly.

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At this point I probably hadn’t been riding that long. It might have even been my first or second lesson. We would start by all riding around the arena at a walking pace, building up to a trot, learning to post (which is stranding up in rhythm with the horse’s movements to avoid being bounced in the saddle), then galloping. I hadn’t galloped yet. I’m not sure if it was the speed that intimidated me or if I just couldn’t get Miss Terrific to go that fast.

A trot is a four-beat movement. You can feel all four of the horse’s feet hit the ground and if you don’t post, you’ll be bounced constantly and uncomfortably. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four. Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow… But a gallop is a three-beat movement—smooth—almost like gliding. In a gallop, the horse has at least one foot up off the ground. Just like when a person runs.

So there Miss Terrific and I were, four-beating it around the arena while others passed us, when another young rider came up alongside us.

“You’ve got to cluck to her,” he said, and clicked his tongue. (Some people give kisses—make a kissing noise to encourage the horse—or make clicking or clucking sounds, using audible cues rather than physical taps or nudges.) I could hear Dan over the speaker also encouraging Miss Terrific (come on, Miss Terrific, come on), and clicking into his microphone.

Alright, I thought. We can do this. I urged her with clucks and clicks and kisses and then suddenly—

We broke into a gallop. It felt smooth and perfect and somehow way better than the slower (and safer) trot I had been stubbornly hanging on to.

“Now you’re flying!” the other rider shouted to me as I took off past him. It was exhilarating. We had done it, Miss Terrific and I.

Over the years, I had the privilege to work with lots of different horses, both in Western and English styles. The Taylors always insisted that riding many different horses made one a better rider. And Miss Terrific was really their “beginner’s horse.” Eventually I graduated from her and learned to work with other horses; some who were feisty or faster or challenging in other ways. Some who were never property trained, some who tried to fight me, and some who just loved to eat and roll around in the mud. In later years, I learned how to barrel race and how to jump a course.

Even after nearly twenty years, I still find it the slightest bit intimidating, working with a horse. While you’re technically “in charge,” you should never forget that you’re working with a one tonne animal who could kill you if something went wrong, or at least kick you or throw you off. There’s something humbling to that.

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Sometime ago I was told that the Taylors had sold Miss Terrific to people who had more pasture for her to retire in. She was old, even when I knew her. It’s silly that I believed it. That’s got to be the one of the oldest lines in the book. I’m deeply grateful to her and I’m sure she’s peacefully grazing and galloping away in horsey heaven.

 

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Appearance vs. Reality (Guest Post)

In my high school English class, my teacher always told us to be on the lookout for clues that all was not what it seemed; to pay attention to characters whose inner thoughts were different from their actions, and to focus on the incongruity and what it might reveal about the characters, the story, or the world. I remember my teacher writing “Appearance vs. Reality” on the board over and over during the years I was lucky enough to be in her class. It has stuck with me, and I’m still attuned to it even when I’m watching movies or reading for pleasure.

Sometimes, I feel hypocritical even doing the occasional guest post on a fitness blog, because I feel like a total impostor; like the appearance I try to cultivate is hugely divergent from the reality. My relationship with exercise is on-again, off-again, I don’t excel at any sport (although I genuinely like a lot of them), and I’m not a nutrition expert. Some days, I feel like a total untouchable boss in the gym or in the pool, and others, I feel like an alien or a toddler who hasn’t quite gotten the hang of walking yet. I wish I could be someone who rode my bike everywhere (as it stands, I walk pretty much anywhere I can get in less than an hour and take the bus if I’m going any further). I’m a decent cook and like cooking healthy food, but have certainly been known to eat an entire pint of coconut ice cream* in a single sitting. I go through frequent cycles of “YAY I’M GOING TO EAT HEALTHY FOOD ALL THE TIME AND EXERCISE EVERY OTHER DAY” followed shortly by a crash where I eat takeout curry** every night for a week and forget what my running shoes look like.

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[Image description: A greeny-blue pint-sized carton of Mint Chocolate Chip coconut ice cream.] Seriously, you don’t understand how good this stuff is.

Conceptually, I know moderation is the key to avoiding these cycles, but I haven’t quite internalized that.

Because of this, I often feel like I have no business whatsoever in blogging—even guest blogging—for a fitness blog. It seems like the kind of thing that only people who really have their act together should do; people who have it all figured out and are here to impart some epic knowledge. Even though I’ve only done a handful of posts, I dread linking to them on my own Facebook page because I’m totally convinced that people who actually know me in real life will read them and go, “Pfft, what? Who is she to talk?” (I think this is my anxiety talking, but that doesn’t make the feeling any less real.) The impostor syndrome doesn’t end there; I’m convinced that someone will realize I’ve tricked my way into my PhD program, someone will notice that all the socks I knit are basically just variations on the same theme (so take no real talent to produce), someone will find out that I have no real competence in anything whatsoever. This is indeed a case where appearance does not align with reality, or so my brain tells me.

I try to manage my worries with an awful lot of private pep talks to myself (and a lot of support from family and friends). But there’s a Catch-22: I normally rely heavily on exercise to manage my anxiety and depression, but occasionally exercise turns into a source of anxiety. For the time being, I guess I’ll just keep rolling with the on-again, off-again cycle that I’ve come to know and love (?), but I sure wish I could shake the feeling that I’m not good enough and have managed to trick everyone else into thinking I’m something I’m not. Of course, things are further compounded by the fact that I do genuinely believe that it’s okay just to do things you like doing, regardless of whether you’re actually “good” at them. So then I worry that I’m being hypocritical, and I question why not being good enough is so troubling to me. If you truly believed that it was okay to do things you like doing, whether or not you’re good at them, the little voice says, you wouldn’t feel like such an impostor.

There isn’t any grand lesson or moral to be gained from this post. I just wanted to throw these ideas out there. How about you, readers? Does any of you ever feel like your appearance doesn’t match your reality?

 

*And let me tell you, this is one case where “vegan” is unequivocally not the same as “healthy.”

**Again, “vegan” ≠ “healthy.”