I remember the day it happened. One day I was overweight; the next day, I was obese.
No, I didn’t consume a tandem load of Girl Guide cookies. Nor did I suddenly get a new scale with ultra-accurate technology.
What really happened was the insurance companies got their way and the range for the Body-Mass Index shifted upward.
Systems recalibrate all the time. But in 1998, large groups of people went from having a slightly concerning (or none at all) issue with their weight to one in which massive interventions were required to stave off an earlier than desired departure from this mortal plane.
So you couldn’t colour me surprised when I read this article in the Medium about the racist origins of the BMI. But I was taken aback to see this quote:
Think about that: it was designed for the purposes of statistics not individual health.
And yet today, health media abounds with stories of how BMI is being used in grade schools to measure childhood obesity, on an individual level.
In the gym, I measure my success individually, but with precise tools. I didn’t start out lifting 230 pounds but overtime I and my trainer built up my endurance, my strength and my skill. The BMI is never used because it’s an inappropriate tool. Even the Centre for Disease Control in the US provides guidance to health practitioners on how to use the tool.
With the changes in the ranges for risk for BMI, people’s health status changed overnight. For many, they went from having little, or some risk, to a lot. What does that mean in practical terms?
When I became pregnant, I went from a low pregnancy risk category to a high one. When I was having a minor procedure a couple of years ago, the nurse sent me for a surgical risk screening based solely on what my BMI said: not what my blood pressure, my strength, or my general level of fitness showed.
It’s good to manage risk, but you have to do it properly. Using a flawed tool does not minimize risk. In fact, it may increase your level of risk for inappropriate treatment or intervention. It’s time we talked in greater detail on the issues surrounding BMI and understood more how fitness through regular activity can reduce risk rather than applying some numbers.
Essentially, as your estrogen levels drop during menopause, the “skin of the vulva and vagina become thinner with a loss of elasticity.” Labia minora can also shrink. And all of this is commonly accompanied by dryness, or, other symptoms during sex, “loss of lubrication, an uncomfortable sandpaper-like sensation, pain, difficulties achieving orgasm and even tearing of the vagina or vulva. There is also an increased risk of urinary tract infections.” Oh — and also according to the NYT — “as estrogen is crucial to maintaining the bacterial colonies of the vagina, there can also be a change in the type of bacteria, which can lead some women to notice a change in their typical smell.” This delightful array of symptoms is formally known as “genitourinary syndrome of menopause” — or GSM.
I think I speak for all of us when I say:
So what to do? What to do?
That link to the NYT piece has some basic suggestions, including obvious things like unscented soap, lube and vaginal moisturizers. But these are about managing symptoms — to try to do any prevention, you need to explore with your doctor about whether different pharmaceutical options, like vaginal estrogen creams etc., are a possibility.
This is where the feminist piece comes in for me: short of asking me “are you still having periods?” my doctor has never raised or mentioned anything about peri-menopause, my aging uterus or dwindling hormones — let alone my shrinking vagina. (I’m working hard here not to start to mentally distance myself from my discomfort here by using terminology like “my petrifying pussy” or “languishing ladygarden.” I never use those kinds of terms, but my inner voices are all like, eek must make this a joke!) It’s one of those not-talked-about things.
We were talking about this NYT piece the other day and Susan pointed out that if things are going to shrivel, by the time you become symptomatic enough for a doc to treat it as a thing, things are already shrunken, and you’re managing symptoms, not preventing anything.
So this is my little feminist rant for this: older vagina-having people are sexual beings, and it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to want to preserve your juiciness. Docs aren’t going to offer anything until it’s a problem. Topical estrogen seems to be a (relatively, of course) safe option to prevent shrinkage. Seize your own destiny on this.
What’s up next in the “Icky Things my genitals might do” series?
We’ve had a reader ask us about waist size and bellies. Cate will be posting about that next week. But in the meantime I’ve been reading through some of our older “belly” posts. Here’s Nat on belly patrolling.
So I’ve touted my comfy no-bra summer styling and up until last week I had not gotten one piece of negative feedback.
I love this combo, cool in the August heat and delightfully free of the boob jail thing called a bra. So I’m standing at a busy intersection at night wearing something similar to above. It’s after midnight on a Tuesday spent laughing with dear friends at Rock’n’Roll Bingo and a car drives by. A man in his late teens or early twenties yells out “I just LOVE YOUR BELLY!”
The sarcasm was pretty clear. I wasn’t terribly upset but I was perplexed. Why on earth would he feel entitled to comment on my belly?
My partner was quick to pick up the point “Oh women must be, at all times, attractive to all men or suffer the wrath of being patrolled.” Of course! How silly of me to forget sexism.
I am one of those people who can sleep almost anywhere, anytime. I sleep on planes and I rarely experience jet lag. My trick is simple: arrive well-rested, spend time outside, make it through the day, and then bang, I’m good to go after a night’s sleep in my new location. It’s a good trick and I benefit lots from it. I’ve flown to New Zealand for four days and returned to work not much the worse for wear.
” Personal Relationships have been a topic of philosophical research for quite some time. And rightfully so: they can contribute more to our well-being, give meaning to our lives, and generate salient moral duties and responsibilities. However, the debate has been focused on just a few types of relationships: friendships, the nuclear family, romantic partnership and co-citizenship. In this conference, we aim to explore the focus and explore what we call neglected relationships. These are kinds of relationships that play important part in our personal and moral lives, but that have gone largely underexplored by moral philosophers so far. ” My talk was on chosen family.
My flight turned out to be the Lufthansa equivalent of Air Canada Rouge. (It’s Rouge on the way home, I think.) I’m flying Basic Economy. I flew here on the “overnight” flight–scare quotes because it was just a 5 hour flight. The seats were super small, hard, and uncomfortable. I couldn’t sleep but I also couldn’t work because the person in front of me reclined into my lap. So I arrived sore and scrunched up and very, very tired. Thanks to my compression socks I didn’t have swollen ankles. But my knee hurt a lot from sitting squished into a small space with my knee brace on.
I walked to my hotel and that helped a bit. I napped too before settling down to work on my talk. But I was still really sore. Luckily Yoga with Adrienne came to my rescue! I discovered YWA through the 219 in 2019 fitness challenge group. I knew if I was going to make it to 300 workouts in 2019, I’d need an at home/travel plan. This series of moves really helped with the unscrunching. Indeed, after a day of sitting in talks I might just do it again!
My talk went well. I got some really good comments and I’m looking forward to working on it some more.
Here’s another good thing. Yummy vegetarian/vegan conference food. Also, no single use plastics. These are salads and dressing in glass bowls.
This is part two of my report on how I didn’t run a half marathon. Read part 1 here!
Once I had realised there was no way I was running 21k, I decided to downgrade to the shorter distance of the race. A friend of mine had signed up for the half marathon too, but had injured his knee a couple of weeks before, so he also decided to switch. What a pair! At least we were in the same boat. But as I resigned myself to the shorter option, I also made a crucial mistake: in my memory, there was something about a distance of 9, but this being Europe, my mind somehow turned this into a 10k option. It wasn’t until the Friday evening, after a more than 3k swim practice with speed work to boot, that I exhaustedly realised we were talking about 9 miles, i.e. 14.5k! Yikes.
I turned up on Sunday morning, still tired from the 10k test run the previous Thursday and swim practice on the Friday, and with my stomach still not at 100% after whatever bug it was I had picked up the week before. This was going to be… interesting. Luckily, my friend and I had a good support crew: our partners came along to chauffeur and cheer us on. And there was the prospect of burgers at an excellent diner close to the race venue afterwards.
The conditions were perfect: around 20C and sunnier than expected – the rain that had been forecast decided to hold off until later that day, so weather-wise the only downside was a slightly-too-strong wind. I was a bit nervous because of my stomach, but also determined. If I wasn’t going to do the half marathon, I was at least going to give it my all for the 14.5k.
I set off at quite a good pace. My stomach wasn’t very happy though – you know that feeling when you want to burp, but you can’t? That was me for about the first half of the race. Not too pleasant. Because I wasn’t very comfortable, I had trouble settling into my rhythm. I was keeping a decent speed, but it constantly felt like I was pushing myself. There was also the wind, which was coming from the side or the front. But the course was nice, it took us through a park with two small lakes and then out into the fields.
At the first water station, I took electrolytes and water. Mistake. My stomach hated the electrolytes, there was too much liquid, but on the other hand I was thirsty, so something had to give. I pressed on as the course turned onto a long, straight stretch through the fields. The wind was now coming from the back, which was technically an improvement, but it also meant that the sun was now in my back and it got really, really warm. I really struggled to keep my pace at this point and wished I’d worn shorts instead of capris.
The second water station came around the 10k mark; I’d learned from my earlier mistake and only took water. My stomach had now settled down and I was able to focus more on my stride, which was also becoming necessary because I was getting quite tired. I could still feel Thursday’s training run and Friday’s swim practice in my legs and my splits were constantly getting slower. Up until then, the Spotify 170bpm playlist I had on really helped, but at this stage it became about continuing to run rather than speed.
If I had hated the part of the course with the sun in my back, the course setters had something “better” in stock at around 12k: over 1 kilometre along a sandy path. My friend and I agreed after the race that this was by far the toughest bit physically. Since this was a combined 9-mile and half-marathon course, as we came up to the 19k sign I knew we had about 2k left and the going was getting really tough. I’d long decided to disregard the mile signs: being used to counting kilometres, the miles didn’t tell me much and I found them more confusing than helpful.
As I slogged along, my friend, who is known for taking his time to settle into a race, finally overtook me about 1 kilometre before the end. Mentally, the first half of the last kilometre was the hardest for me: the course looped down a random street for about 200m before coming back in the opposite direction to make the distance fit. I was exhausted, and the way into the loop was ever-so-slightly uphill. Plodding along as I saw other runners coming towards me was really discouraging somehow.
But once I had finished that horrible part, I knew I was out of the woods. There was a guy right in front of me who was going at the same pace I was, so I made it my goal to overtake him before the finish line and mobilised my reserves to speed up. Turns out, he had the same idea and we basically raced each other to the finish. I got so caught up in the competition I ran straight past my finisher medal and had to go back for it later!
I was completely spent, but elated. I’d finished! I hadn’t died! I hadn’t thrown up! I’d run 14.5k with far less-than-ideal training and while not being perfectly healthy! I was also really thirsty, but for the first 15 minutes I didn’t feel like I could drink anything but water. Then I had some coke, which I don’t usually love but suddenly craved. Later, we ate burgers as promised – I couldn’t quite finish mine (still that pesky stomach), but I’ve never had a veggie burger that tasted of victory quite as much as this one!
Reading over this post again, it sounds like I really suffered, and in the moment, I actually did. But I’m still really, really pleased I ran. The feeling of having finished made all the difficulties worth it! Even if it wasn’t a half marathon.
For what it’s worth, I finished in 1:22:32 and actually came third in my age group (it was a small race). Not bad, all things considered! I was on point with my splits (my goal pace was under or around 5:30mins/km) up until kilometre 8. My aim for the half marathon had been to do it in about 2 hours, give or take, and speed-wise I was nearly on track for that. Stamina-wise, I couldn’t have done it on the day, but I’m optimistic that if I manage to get through training without getting sick right before the race, I can do it – next time!
Excerpt: “Each woman’s conversion to the double-shoulder lifestyle is unique. Anna Swanson told me she started coming into the office with a backpack instead of a purse when she began work as a bureaucrat, which seemed, to her, to be a more “masculine” sphere. I corresponded with dozens of women for this story, and they told me they had grown tired of juggling multiple bags on public transportation or while walking—in heels, no less! They shared tales of trying to squeeze a laptop, makeup, gym clothes, a water bottle, notebooks, and a phone into a classy tote, then giving up and saying, Screw it.
“A year ago, I would have said, ‘You’ll have to pry my leather satchel purse from my cold, dead hands,’” says Silver Lumsdaine, a marketing specialist in San Francisco. “But after standing in a jam-packed bus for a 45-minute, swaying, nausea-inducing commute over the hills of San Francisco with my hand cramping in pain from holding my laptop-burdened purse, I did what any reasonable person would do.” Reader, she got a backpack.”
That’s fine. I was once asked to speak at a student event called From Backpack to Briefcase and I had to confess that I had never really made the transition myself. As a cyclist, I’m a fan of backpacks, also messenger bags.
The Atlantic called their story The Rise of the Lady Backpack. Of course they did. because women can’t just wear backpacks. We have to wear “lady backpacks.” Likewise, we ride “women’s bikes.”
What’s with the unnecessary gendering? A friend explained that lady backbacks are built for the female frame. They’re smaller. But what about small men? I asked. Well, said the friend, they can buy a lady backpack.
But they’re not a lady! They’re a small person. Wouldn’t it be easier if backpacks came in sizes to match differently sized people?
FFS. And they’ll probably come in pink.
A friend recently raised the issue of step-through bike frames. He wanted one because he’d had knee surgery and couldn’t swing his leg up over a traditional cross bar. The bike shop told him he wanted a women’s bike. He said, no, that he wanted a step through frame. How hard is this to understand, people?
“TRX Training is extremely joint friendly. People of all ages and fitness levels can be challenged appropriately using the TRX because it allows the user to do high intensity workouts without having to put full body weight on knees and hips. The Suspension Trainer allows the user to off-set their own body weight and move through the correct range of motion without pain.” From Home Fitness for Her.
My knees approve. It’s also a very good core exercise. We do some combination of the exercises here.
Sarah owns her own TRX so in theory we could hang it up outside and do it at home. Or take it camping. In practice these days I’m better off if someone else tells me what to do.
What is it anyway? Here’s Wikipedia: ” The TRX System, also known as Total Resistance exercises, refers to a specialized form of suspension training that utilizes equipment developed by former U.S. Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick.[TRX is a form of suspension training that uses body weight exercises to develop strength, balance, flexibility and core stability simultaneously. It requires the use of the TRX Suspension Trainer, a performance training tool that leverages gravity and the user’s body weight to complete the exercises. TRX’s designers claim that it draws on research from the military, pro sports, and academic institutions along with experience gathered from the TRX team, who work “with thousands of athletes, coaches, trainers, first responders, subject matter experts, professors, and service members in all branches.”[
If the 15 above weren’t enough, here’s 66 TRX moves:
How about you? Do you use the TRX equipment at the gym or at home? Love it? Hate it? What are your fave TRX moves?