Canada’s Ultimate Challenge: Go Lori!

“Lori Campbell is an associate vice president of Indigenous engagement at the University of Regina. Born at Montreal Lake First Nations, she is a survivor of the sixties scoop and has successfully reunited with her birth mother and six of her living siblings who were also adopted out across several provinces. “As an Indigenous TwoSpirit woman I don’t see myself represented in many public spaces and roles. I often have young TwoSpirit people reach out to me because they are struggling and I know how lonely it can feel without role models. Sometimes you just have to step up and be what you can’t see – so that others will hopefully struggle just a little bit less.”

As a 50-year-old woman who works in an office job, Lori stays fit to maintain good mental health. She brings stamina and maturity to the competition, “I just dug deep and thought about all the pain and violence my ancestors went through and thought I can do anything,” she says, ” I didn’t want any Indigenous person to feel like they weren’t good enough!”‘

Meet the Red Team

Read about the other Red team members in Canada’s Ultimate Challenge here.

We’re interviewing Lori for the blog and we’d love to pass your questions along. What would you like to know about Lori. Team Red, or Canada’s Ultimate Challenge?

advice · fitness · goals · habits · self care

Go Team 2023! Systems Check

I only have three more posts in this January series so I wanted to reiterate three important things for you to carry with you as you forge ahead with your habit-building.

First up: a systems check!

Whether you are cruising happily along with your habit building, you are finding each day a struggle, or you are somewhere in between, it’s a good idea to check your systems from time to time.

Note: Doing a systems check is especially important if you are struggling. In my experience, people who are struggling with habit-building are awfully quick to attribute their struggles to some ‘flaw’ they perceive in themselves.

I don’t want that to happen to anyone but I especially don’t want that for you, dear Team members. Instead of defaulting to self-blame, please get curious about your systems instead.

Do you have systems in place to support the plans that you have made and the tasks you need to do to bring those plans to fruition?

If you haven’t consciously chosen a system for adding this habit to your life, you are probably unconsciously defaulting to a system you have used for something else. And a system designed (consciously or unconsciously) for a different project is unlikely to support you in building your current habit and will probably cause you a lot of frustration as you go along.

Your system doesn’t have to be complex or elaborate, it can be a straightforward as selecting a time and a place when you can be reasonably certain that you can do your habit-building tasks on a regular basis.

For example: If you are trying to build a habit of daily meditation, your system could involve choosing to meditate first thing in the morning because you get up before everyone else and you are rarely interrupted. It could also involve things like l putting a blanket in your meditation location every night, setting your coffee pot timer a little later so your coffee is ready when your meditation is done instead of when you first get up, or requesting support from your partner or roommates to take care of anything that arises during your meditation session.

Are your systems doing what you need them to do?

Maybe you have systems in place but they are designed for an ideal day rather than your regular life.

Perhaps the system elements you thought you needed at the beginning don’t actually meet your needs.

Or maybe you the system you created was perfect at the beginning but you quickly outgrew it.

It’s possible that the system you created is more complex than you realized and it’s too hard to follow. (This happens to me a fair bit. I often don’t realize how many steps I have put in place until I try to follow them on a regular basis. Then I end up trying to meet the requirements of the system instead of the system serving me.)

It’s ok to adjust a system that isn’t working.

Taking time, even mid-project, to assess how your systems are working is probably time well-spent.

Identifying the friction in your system now will help you reduce frustration overall and help you refine your habit-building process more quickly. Reducing that friction will let you spend more time on your habit-related tasks and less time fighting with yourself and your own system.

What do you need to add or remove to get your system working for you?

This is not the time to be hard on yourself about what you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ need.

If you think of something to add to or remove from your system that will help you move forward with your habit building, please do what you need to do.

If you find it easier to exercise with a ribbon tied around your left wrist, tie a ribbon around your left wrist. And have a system for keeping track of the ribbon and one for cleaning it when it gets grubby.

You don’t have to get precious about the ribbon – you know you *can* exercise without it, it’s just feels better when you do – but you also don’t have to atop using it just to prove a point.

Go ahead and adjust your system until it meets your needs.

After all, supporting you is the whole point of the system – it might as well do a thorough job.

All Systems Go

So, Team, as you move forward with your habit-building practices and tasks, please do the occasional systems check.

You will always be doing the best you can do with resources you have in a given moment.

There’s no need to let a mismatched system cause you any stress or, worse, to cause you to doubt yourself.

With the right system, and the right match between your expectations and your efforts, you can build the habit you want to build.

And, speaking of efforts, here’s a gold star for your efforts today – whatever those efforts might entail.

Be kind to yourself out there.

Pretty please.

A large gold star outlined in green against a shaded green background decorated with closed yellow spirals and green dots.
A drawing of a large gold star outlined in green against a shaded green background decorated with closed yellow spirals and green dots.
challenge · fitness

The Dalai Lama sticks his tongue out often, and other lessons from his Happiness Challenge

January is almost over, and with it comes a slowdown of the New Year’s challenges that show up in our inboxes and social media feeds. I’ve got mixed emotions about challenges. The novelty of them can be interesting, and maybe sometimes the intensity and repetition has lasting effects on habits we might want to alter or develop. However, I find that the novelty can soon wear off, and along with it my commitment to the challenge, especially if I’m just doing it just because it’s the season.

However, in this case the other person doing the challenge is His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who’s sharing how to achieve and maintain happiness in the course of ten days. Well, not really. It’s another of the Ten Percent Happier meditation app challenges. They went to a lot of trouble to fly out to Dharamshala, India, where the Dalai Lama lives in exile, and actually interview him about happiness, compassion, dealing with jerks in our lives, etc. And yes, there were ten days of meditations too, with Zen priest Roshi Joan Halifax.

tldr: I did all the meditations, but the best part was what I learned about and from the Dalai Lama about happiness. Here are some of those lessons.

Lesson one: the Dalai Lama sticks his tongue out after he says something funny. He did this throughout the interviews, so I think it’s his thing. Each time he did it I enjoyed it even more. I think we should all start doing this; the world would definitely be a happier and more humorous place for it.

Lesson two: Even the Dalai Lama experiences anger. When Dan Harris, the Ten Percent Happier founder, asked him if he ever felt anger, he admitted that being woken up by a mosquito in his room was irksome.

Whew, that’s a relief! The goal of any happiness challenge just can’t be the elimination of either angry or sad or negative thoughts and feelings. Neither can it be the fashioning of a wholly positive and happy environment. If the Dalai Lama can’t achieve this, certainly I can’t either. So I don’t have to berate myself when I feel negative; it’s a part of the human experience.

Lesson three: as in all challenges that I’ve tried, some parts are much harder than others. Compassion is a very big thing with the Dalai Lama (obvs). He explains that compassion to others (and I mean ALL others, including even those most difficult people in our lives) gives us a benefit– the benefit of greater happiness. He calls this strategy “wise selfishness”.

His Holiness again, tongue out, punctuation for his wise selfishness lesson. I can't get enough of this...
His Holiness again, tongue out, punctuation for his wise selfishness lesson. I can’t get enough of this…

I tried the meditation on compassion for jerks (that’s what they called it), and it was pretty hard. You’re supposed to think of a difficult person in your life, and wish them health, happiness, safety and ease. I’ve done this sort of meditation before– it’s a variation on Metta or Loving Kindness meditation. It just so happened that, at the time I was sitting for this meditation, I couldn’t do it. It was too hard focusing on a very difficult person. I was resisting and losing focus and struggling.

During that meditation, though, Roshi Joan Halifax said that we could focus on ourselves instead if the going got too tough. Maybe that day we needed more help, more compassion. So I did, and that helped.

I am remembering this and trying to apply it to other challenges in my life– physical, emotional, logistical, etc. Not every day is all-go-no-stop. In fact most days aren’t. And some days our flow, our grit, our focus, our strength– they are at a low ebb. Wise selfishness includes compassion for ourselves as well as others. Okay, got it.

Lesson four: when someone is sad, offering them cake is always a help. Okay, there’s more to this one (but honestly, not a whole lot more). The Dalai Lama gave a talk with folks about how we are social animals, and that happiness comes from seeing that we are not alone. A woman in the group shared that she was grieving a loved one, and asked him how he maintained hope amidst grief.

His Holiness called her to him, and then fed her some cake.

The Dalai Lama, feeding cake to a woman. They are both so happy, as am I just seeing them.
The Dalai Lama, feeding cake to a woman. They are both so happy, as am I just seeing them.

An act of kindness, as simple as offering food, reminds us of our connections to others. This is another example of the wise selfishness that His Holiness was talking about. Do for others and you spread happiness. Wondering how you can pull this off? Easy– bake a cake. Or brownies. Your choice. And then share it.

At the end of the Ten Day Challenge, I feel like I’ve acquired a few new moves to take me in the direction of increased happiness. Thank you, Dalai Lama! Now, off to try my hand at a lemon pound cake to bring to friends.

Fellow readers, did you take away any new skills from January challenges? I’d love to hear from you.

advice · fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023! When you just don’t wanna

Team, let’s be clear about something…

When you are undertaking a long term project, especially one where it may take a while to see your progress, you are going to have days when you just don’t wanna do the thing.

You probably have time and capacity to do it but you just feel so meh about it that you can’t be bothered.

For starters, this is a normal part of the process of making change and trying to complete a long project, so please don’t automatically take this feeling as a sign that the project isn’t for you. Also, please don’t take it as a sign that you aren’t up for the challenge.

And, while you’re at it, don’t assume that your temporary lack of enthusiasm is permanent. You don’t have to feel excited about your tasks or projects every day. Most of us have a mix of enthusiasm, boredom, determination, apathy, and focus over the course of any project.

So, now that you have cleared the worry that today’s lack of enthusiasm is an omen, what can you do about the fact that you just don’t wanna do the thing?

1) You can decide not to do the thing today

It’s true! There’s probably no one forcing you to do the thing and, in the big picture, this one day probably will not make or break your plans.

Maybe you need a rest. Maybe you need to feel like you are ‘breaking’ the rules today, like you are getting away with something.

Maybe you just need to assert your authority over your schedule to remind yourself that this stuff is your choice and that these tasks are supposed to serve you, not the other way around.

No matter what your reason or your need, you do indeed have the power to say ‘Nah!’ today.

2) You can do the thing anyway

It’s a bizarre truth that you don’t actually need to be enthusiastic in order to get something done. In fact, you can be completely apathetic and do something in the most rote and routine way and it can still get done.

It might be a little harder to get started but you can decide to just forge ahead with the damn thing and get it over with.

It might not be the best iteration of the task, it might not be fun, but it will be done.

Like saying goes ‘Done beats perfect every time.’

3) You can change the thing you have to do

Maybe you don’t actually feel meh about your project overall, maybe just feel meh about today’s task.

Maybe the walk that seemed like a good plan when you made your list now feels like the worst idea ever.

Maybe when your hopeful Monday scheduled a 10 minute meditation today, they imagined a much more relaxed week. However, the you of today, the one who has been through the tasks of the week, can’t face the idea of sitting for 10 minutes right now.

The you of today can override the you of the past.

Past you was planning based on ideas, present you is working with information.

Present you can use that information to make a different plan.

Present you can decide to dance or bike or swim instead of going for a walk.

The you of today can choose to do some meditative movement or to colour or draw or fold laundry or sort legos – anything that gives *you* that same sort of focused calm.

(Laundry or sorting doesn’t do that for me, personally, but lots of my clients have reported that tasks like that feel mindful and helpful. You do what works for you.)

Like I said in the section above, enthusiasm isn’t required to complete a task. However, if you lack enthusiasm about your planned task but a different task that serves the same purpose *is* appealing, then go ahead and do the other task.

You don’t have to stick with the original plan that past you made. Present you knows more about your situation than past you did.

Keep aiming for self-kindness

Obviously, your ideal situation is to keep working steadily toward developing the habit you want to develop.

However, working steadily does not have to mean working constantly on a rigid plan.

Instead, using a self-kindness lens, you can interpret ‘working steadily’ to mean giving yourself what you need each day to move toward your habit.

On any given day, the kindest choice might be to take a break, it might be to change the task, or it might be to forge ahead anyway, despite a lack of enthusiasm.

Only you can decide which is the kindest one for your present self.

I wish you ease and I offer you this gold star for your efforts – your efforts toward your habit, your efforts to change your plans, your efforts to rest, and, as always, for your efforts to be kind to yourself either way.

Your efforts matter. 💚

A drawing of a gold star against a patterned background.​
A drawing of a gold star against a patterned background that slants upward from left to right. The background is composed of three sections. The top one is made of intersecting tile-shapes that contain slanted rectangles that alternate between black and white. The intersecting point of each set of four tiles is overlaid with a circle. The middle section of the background is a series of small squares, some of which have a smaller square in the centre while others contain dots at the top and slanted lines at the bottom. The bottom section has light black lines overlaid with three objects drawn on top. The objects are long sticks with smaller sticks laid across them. The smaller sticks have small back squares on the ends of each one. In the centre of each long stick is a square or rectangle framing a smaller object of the same shape.

Feminist Fitness is Complex, Y’all!

This post is about how lately I’ve noticed some tensions, contradictions, and concessions relating to my fitness activities, my values, and my actions.

About a month ago I was at an all-inclusive resort. I went to their giant indoor gym to check it out. On vacation, everyone gets more choice about how to spend their time, and choosing to exercise at a week-long, 3-meal buffet isn’t the worst idea. Yet, I still found myself surprised at how many vacationers were there, choosing weights and cardio machines inside over the swim-up bar in the middle of the sunny afternoon.

Then I looked more closely, and I saw a lot of mirror posing and leisurely, high-fashion strutting in that gym. It seemed as if the workouts were on vacation. As well, the spandexified vacation gym rats were in stark relief to the Dominican Republican employees who were all heads down, cleaning and re-stocking gym items, in their linen uniforms. Although I should have felt good being in that gym while on vacation, instead I felt self-congratulatory and also a bit icky.

A few weeks ago I started seriously prepping for a week-long hiking trip with friends in February. Good gear matters on trips with uncertain winter weather and lots of hills, I am told. So I started researching and comparing and getting advice. And buying. And then buying more. Some FIFI bloggers are challenge themselves to buy nothing for a year. In contrast, I am BUYING ALL THE THINGS. The more things I buy, the more things I seem to need. I want to be prepared and comfortable, but I also reel as if I’ve succumbed to the marketing of the exercise gear industry and the algorithms of online shopping.

Then, a few days ago, I scored a goal in my rec soccer game—the only goal of the whole game, and in the opponent’s net (contrary to my past goals). We won, and I was elated to be part of that win. 24 hours later, I discovered that while I was feeling great about winning I had also lost my 7 gold and silver rings at the sports complex. Attempts to find them have been futile, and I am saddened to have misplaced that which held so much value for me. I shouldn’t have taken them to the sports complex, but I happen to like both exercising and wearing jewelry.

These small happenings don’t easily sort out in my brain, leaving me feeling conflicted: I am torn between self-congratulation and social conscience, between comfort and commodification, and between holding on and letting go.

My conclusion is one we may already recognize: fitness is complex! We often aim for alignment in what we think and what we do, but we also question and challenge what goes below the surface about exercise. We strive for equity, diversity, and accessibility in fitness and sports, but we must also accept that inclusion is a rough journey and not just a simple checkbox to tick.

Some days, I feel a bit flummoxed by the complexity of fitness and feminism in my mid-life. It’s not all simple and straightforward. If you are feeling that way too right now, then I send you all the grace and good vibes I can muster in these perplexing times.

ADHD · advice · fitness · goals · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023! Choose for your own peace of mind

Today is a bit of an off day for me.

I had a few complicated things to do and I’m not feeling particularly well and I just kind of want to climb under a blanket and take a nap.

I had a reasonable amount of things on my to do list today but now it is mid-afternoon and I can take things in two possible directions.

1) I can forge ahead with my to do list as-is and just hope for the best.

2) I can get strategic and decide which tasks to work on and how much time/energy I am going to put into them.

Perhaps you’ve had success with option 1 but almost every time I’ve tried it I have ended up feel frustrated and dissatisfied and VERY conscious of the tasks left undone.

And I have usually had to spend a fair bit of time coaxing myself out of feeling badly about the whole thing.

However, anytime I have paused and made a conscious choice about which tasks to work on and how long to spend on them, I have more peace of mind right from the start.

My tasks feel more accessible, more possible. My efforts make sense to me, they feel more direct. I end up being able to focus on what I *can* do with the resources I have instead of having an constant low-key dread that I won’t get stuff done.

What does this have to do with your habit-building tasks?

Well, I have found that I feel much the same when the tasks ahead of me are related to my habits as when they are related to my work.

If I am holding those tasks in my head on an off-kilter/busy day with the idea that I will get to them ‘as soon as possible’ and that I will do them completely as planned, I end up feeling stressed about them. They take up way more room in my head than they need to and I end up feeling like I am falling short.


If my day is going a bit sideways and I stop to make a choice about what I will or will not do, I feel better about the whole thing.

Instead of going into overdrive, mentally and physically, and wearing myself down, I focus and choose my next steps.

And making those choices gives me peace of mind.

I’m no longer fitting in a 20 minute walk ‘if I can’ – I’m choosing to take a 10 minute walk because I am certain I have time for that.

I’m no longer ‘hoping to meditate before bed’, I’m choosing to stop anything else I’m doing at 10pm so I have time to meditate.

Or, I’m no longer planning to row ‘when I finish everything else’ (a phrase that could extend my day far more than I want to), I’m choosing not to row at all today because I had to shift my priorities or because I don’t feel well.

Alternatively, I may be choosing to row or walk or meditate for a longer period of time or in a more challenging way and choosing *not* to do something else.

So, Team, based on this extended example from how my brain works, how do you feel about choosing the parameters for your habit-building tasks today?

Will making a conscious choice bring you peace of mind?

Or are you just as happy to carry on with your to do list and see what happens?

Please choose whichever feels kindest to you.

And here’s a gold star for your efforts today, no matter how many choices are involved.

*Nothing serious just some minor symptoms related to having a tooth pulled a few days ago.

PS – I know that some of these thought patterns have ADHD-related origins, at least in my brain, but I understand that at least some neurotypical people also think this way sometimes. Either way, I think making conscious choices on a hard day is good for your brain and helps you feel more in charge of things.

A drawing of a shiny gold star against a background of green spirals and green dots.​
A drawing of a shiny gold star against a background of green spirals and green dots.

Back on the Ice! (For a Moment)

Today I am taking a cue from Christine’s post encouraging us to revisit moments of success, and thinking about a very special, if scary, moment for me last month.

I have written in the past about my hip surgeries to repair tears in my cartilage. Before those tears started, I enjoyed ice skating. I wasn’t particularly good at it, but since I was a little girl I loved the feeling of skating. Until I was 6, I lived in a tiny town on the Alaska Highway, and skating was one of the only activities around for kids. I started skating when I was 3 and sadly for me, stopped when we moved to a small, coastal logging town where the nearest ice rink was 40 minutes drive. My mom wasn’t comfortable driving me that far and my life as a skater ended. (Somehow my parents found a way to take my younger brother to play ice hockey though, a fact that has been hard to figure out for me).

Selfie of woman looking at the camera, you just barely see she is wearing skates, standing next to a couch.

I didn’t have a chance to skate again until, as a young adult, I moved to Montréal. I enjoyed skating on ponds there in winter, and when I moved later to Toronto, I continued to skate on the free public rinks. It was a thrill.

My husband is from Edmonton and he grew up skating outdoors. His first Christmas gift to me was pair of lovely figure skates – he gave them to me when he took me home to meet his family, and we had a magical time skating on the frozen downtown ponds, actually skating around islands! I was dazzled that my skates had brown (not black) heels, just like the young women casually practicing single axel jumps on the ice around us.

We continued that love of skating when we moved to London, Ontario, where we are now. We skated at the downtown rinks and I felt pretty comfortable. Our first son was born and we got him bob-skates (kiddie skates that strap onto their shoes) and we would skate around with him between us.

The first sign of my hip injury appeared when I was pregnant with our second son, and by the time he was born skating was pretty unimaginable for me. Between the pain and having a three year old AND a newborn, I just couldn’t do it. Over time my hips got worse and it took more than 10 years to get proper diagnoses and then surgeries. I think I got on skates twice in those years. The second time it was like I forgot how to skate. I couldn’t even stand on my skates on the rubber pads at the rink. I was pretty heartbroken, and have continued to be for years.

Happily though, I have now had two hip repairs and I have recovered a number of activities, including hiking and canoeing. This winter our church rented a rink and I felt brave enough to put on my skates. My plan was just to try them on at home and see if I could stand. I was literally shaking!

I managed to get them on and felt totally fine walking around on our carpet, so I got braver and took them the next day to the rink. It was really scary, but I got on the ice! I actually felt alright! I think I was most comfortable just standing on my own – it felt better than holding someone’s hand or trying to hold on to the boards of the rink… In the end though, I was really worried about falling hard and putting out my back or neck. I had this moment where I though “I think this is enough for today.” I tried to hang back a little bit more to see if it would shift (because really, I was dying to make one round of the rink!).

GIF of person in red jacket stepping onto the ice at a hockey rink. Next to them a man is holding their hand as they step on

I had this feeling like I didn’t want to push my luck… I don’t know if it was the right thing to do, but I just called it quits for the day. Ultimately I was totally thrilled to just shuffle around for a bit. I would love to recover my ice-legs enough to enjoy a casual skate.

For now though, I’m celebrating. Thanks Christine for the encouragement to do that! I will be making myself a gold star!

fitness · holiday fitness · holidays · walking

Look at me! Walking for fun in the sun!

I’ve got say after a few icy months of walking in Ontario, I’m loving the clear surfaces here in Arizona. Yes, it’s been frosty at night and there are signs warning us of winter driving conditions (we laughed), by the time the sun comes up (and so far that’s been consistently the way everyday) any ice has melted.

I don’t know why the dry air helps with joint pain. It certainly seems to. And yes, I know a very large study published in the BMJ says it doesn’t. Maybe it’s just the bright yellow ball in the sky that’s beaming down at me that’s responsible for distracting me from pain, Whatever it is, my knees are very happy in Arizona.

It’s fun to be walking recreationally again. And that’s it really. This is a very short blog post. But I’ve shared so much knee sadness over the years, I felt like sharing some happy news and a smile.

advice · fitness · goals · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023! Err on the side of self-kindness

Sorry for the spoiler in the title, Team, but I always want you to be kind to yourself, no matter what.

I think that one of the biggest obstacles in developing new habits is how hard we can be on ourselves about the challenges involved.

We’re trying to layer a new habit into an already busy life.

We’re trying to rewire our brain to make a different choice.

We’re working to change an ingrained system.

Over time, our brains and our bodies have acclimatized to one thing (for better or for worse) and we are trying to coax them into doing something different.

That takes effort.

Conscious, repeated effort.

This requires experimentation. There will be successes. There will be missteps. There will be adjustments. There will be changes.

The whole initial idea may have to be revamped if those experiments and adjustments provide new information.

This things (and all kinds of others) are all very normal parts of the process of building a new habit, of making change.

So, when you bump up against any of these things and falls into ‘blame yourself’ mode, you don’t do yourself any favours. In fact, it just makes things even harder.

So, please, don’t add that obstacle.

Aim for self-kindness.

When a mistake is make, when something needs to be changed, when you are struggling, try to view yourself through the most compassionate lens possible.

Instead of defaulting framing things in terms of fault and failure, try to to see yourself as a normal human being doing normal human things. A normal human being who needs support, structure, and systems to build a new habit.

Whenever possible, err on the side of self-kindness.

I know that self-kindness may not be easy.

In fact, it is a whole separate habit to build.

But, it is definitely worth putting into practice, even if you are just experimenting with it at first.

Even if you don’t *fully* believe it, even if you have doubts, even if you worry that you are letting yourself away with something, it’s worth giving self-kindness a try.

And if you can’t stir up kindness for yourself, imagine that I am talking to you about the situation at hand. Imagine what I would say to you in the situation (hint: it’s going to be kind and it will not involve blame.)

Self-kindness is never going to be a bad choice.

Your gold stars for today’s efforts in self-kindness, habit-building, or planning are in a basket below. Take as many as you like – you’re doing an awful lot of work here!

Wishing you ease and self-compassion today and always, Team.

Drawing of a shallow basket of gold stars, sitting on a table
Image description: A drawing of a shallow basket filled with gold stars of various sizes sitting on a table. The table and basket are drawing in black ink with a woven pattern on the basket and lines like wood grain on the table, the stars are painted gold.

eating · fitness · overeating

Is second-hand cake as bad for you as second-hand smoke? On sweets in the workplace

On January 18, The Washington Post was either having a very slow news day or engaging in a hazing ritual for new editors. Why do I think this? Because of this article that somehow got published about how Dr. Susan, Jebb, chair of the UK Food Standards Agency personally doesn’t like it when people bring cakes into the office:

“If nobody brought in cakes into the office, I would not eat cakes in the day, but because people do bring cakes in, I eat them,” professor Susan Jebb, chairwoman of the Food Standards Agency, told Britain’s Times newspaper. “We all like to think we’re rational, intelligent, educated people who make informed choices the whole time, and we undervalue the impact of the environment.”

Hmm. I see. Did a new study come out about workplace treat consumption and health outcomes? A randomized controlled trial to measure employee BMI before and after the experimental group had a slew of employee birthday parties? A literature review on the state of employee workplace nutritional intake?

Nope. Courtesy of Daniel Herron, on Unsplash. I don't know if the writing is edible or not.
Nope. Courtesy of Daniel Herron, on Unsplash. I don’t know if the writing is edible or not.

Someone just asked Jebb what she personally thought about workplace cakes. She added:

“As The Times article points out I made the comments in a personal capacity and any representation of them as the current position or policy of the FSA is misleading and inaccurate.”

But then she went on (fair enough– some reporter kept asking her questions, which she kept answering).

“With smoking, after a very long time, we have got to a place where we understand that individuals have to make some effort, but that we can make their efforts more successful by having a supportive environment,” she said. “But we still don’t feel like that about food.”

Right. Public health nutrition professor doesn’t want cake in the workplace, and suggests that we are now in a position with respect to cake in the workplace that we used to be with respect to smoking in the workplace.

As you would imagine, Washington Post subscribers had much to say in the comments. For ease of digesting them, I’ll put them into manageable bites:

Clever frontal assaults:

  • Oh, please. I’ve never been afflicted by second hand cake because it isn’t possible, unless perhaps you slip on someone’s cake and fall down the stairs.
  • Is it possible to actually inhale cake involuntarily now?
  • Some of the foods in our environment are designed to kill.

Crabby and ungrateful co-workers

  •  I didn’t like the cake for my birthday at work from co-workers, even if they were excellent. I also didn’t like it when sweets or cakes were brought in for everyone to enjoy.
  • … while the person bringing cake to the office is trying to be kind, they’re poisoning their colleagues.

No more workplace cake because no more workplace!

  • Maybe it’s not the cake but the workplace that’s killing us.
  • Maybe working in an office is the real health risk, not the cake. Sitting at a desk and working on a computer for 8 or more hours a day is way worse than cake. 

Pro-cake partisans

  • I love office cakes. I love office snacks. I love goodies that distract from the daily grind.
  • How often do these coworkers bring cake to the office? They can come work with me.

My favorite is below– I wish I had written it myself, but I’m doing the next best thing by sharing it with all of you here:

The underlying assumption here is that gaining weight is just as unhealthy as smoking. Believe it or not, responsible science doesn’t actually support a clear and direct connection between weight and health outcomes. Food can be a social catalyst and cultural touchstone. Eat the damn cake if you want to; don’t if you don’t.

So, readers, what do you think? When it’s someone’s birthday in your office, should you let them eat cake? Let us know in the comments.