Ask Fieldpoppy: March edition (part 2)

(I initiated this “Dear Fieldpoppy” advice column a few months ago; today’s questions were so rich I did it in two parts; read part one here)

Dear Fieldpoppy: When I do any exercise at all, I sweat. Like everywhere. From my head, my knees… everywhere. As in my underwear are also soaking wet. I can deal with sweat stains under my arms, but not on my pants. Delicacy prevents me from being more explicit, but you get the idea. Any tips for managing this?

Signed, not the good kind of wet

Dear Wet,

About 20 (30! I typed 20 and then did the math! yikes I’m old) years ago, I lived in old victorian house that had great light but got really hot in the summer. One time, an IT guy came to help me with a computer problem, and he was literally dripping sweat onto my Mac Classic. I offered him a glass of water, and he declined, saying “I’m already sweating so much, I don’t want to add more liquid to my body.”

glass of water on a window ledge

At the time, not being the know-it-all Fieldpoppy I am today, I didn’t say anything. But now I would say, “DUDE, water COOLS you. You’ll sweat LESS.”

But there are really two questions here: how do I sweat less? and what do I do with all this sweat I make doing this badass workout?

To regulate the sweating, start with hydration. Cool or iced water if that is a thing you like. Before, during and after. Lots of small sips.

Of course, your own personal body, your hormones, your metabolism — all of these things are huge factors in how much you sweat. Some of us light skinned folks get red in the face no matter what, and some of us in the vague zone of menopause have more complicated thermoregulation. I’m fully into menopause now, and I take hormones that have been super helpful generally — but even so, I still get sweaty, volcanic hot flashes occasionally, usually associated with hot soup, hot baths or warm yoga studios. I try to avoid all of those, and make promiscuous use of fans, both at my desk and while working out. I use a fan with my spin bike, and if I’m working out in a gym or yoga studio, I tend to pick the cooler ones. And of course, wicking clothes, layers, hats to protect from the sun.

Model wearing leakproof high rise briefs from Knix

But if the sweating is just a thing you are going to experience, and you want to minimize the impact, be super intentional about your clothes. I personally like the really light, thin leggings that have a slippery nude feel, like some of the lulu ones, preferably with a colourful pattern where sweat pools are not super vivid. I don’t typically wear underwear with my tights — way cooler — but if it’s important to you, try the leakproof underwear designed for periods (I like Knix, who even make leakproof thongs now, if that’s a thing you groove on) — they are terrific at absorbing all the fluids our bodies produce in all the things we love to do. Finally, I recently got a little sweat towel in a work swag bag (like this), and it works great to help sop things up. Sweat away! Be strong! Be human!

Oh — and wipe your equipment 😉

Dear Fieldpoppy,

A wonderful dad I know just asked what advice we would offer for him to share with his almost four-year-old daughter for International Women’s Day. What would your advice be?

Signed, Auntie

Dear Auntie,

Tell him to go to an indie bookstore (like my fave local Queen books) or a community library with his daughter, ask the lovely people who work there for advice, and then sit down in a pile of the amazing array of books for littles that have come out in the past five years. There is a flourishing abundance of books that give little ones all sorts of narratives about diversity, using your voice, imagination, caring for the world and each other, and what’s possible for all genders in a changing world. Two of my favourites I’ve recently gifted my five year old nephew with are You Might be Special and Julian is a Mermaid. Dwelling in many voices and different stories is the best way to start developing a narrative about what her place in the world could be.

Dear Fieldpoppy,

I moved to a rural place far away from my family to be with my boyfriend, who is a great human and we are really happy when he’s here. But he’s away for work for an extended period of time, and I am having a hard time getting into a meaningful routine by myself. E.g., we used to work out together every morning — without him here, I just stay in bed with coffee and play all the wordle games. (He’s also really bad at texting, but that’s not something I can do anything about). How do I get in more of a groove when I’m here alone? Signed, I wouldn’t live here on purpose

Dear Wordler,

That sounds really tough, especially at the end of two years of weird isolation. You’re not alone in this sense of aimless loneliness, I think! It sounds like your life in this space feels sort of temporary and floaty, so it’s not surprising that your routine has shifted without the framework of the other human in your space.

So first — as I recommended this morning — have a glass of water. And then survey what you really need and want. If it’s just some sort of shape, timers and making dates with people to work out via zoom or whatever can help. But I wonder if, now that we’re emerging from lockdown and spring is somewhere out there, the best thing to do might be to reach into the community. You might be able to find yourself a local group of people doing something active that you could enjoy just for the shape and novelty it gives your week — even if they are not really Your People. About 15 years ago, I was dating someone who lived in a whole other country, and I spent time there for weeks at a time while I was working on my PhD. I joined up with a women’s recreational running group (they called themselves the Slug Goddesses) and suddenly, I felt like I belonged in the community. They didn’t become my best friends, and I actually only ran with them about 10 times — but they eased the sense that I was just floating along. I’m still pals with them on the socials, and one of them ran for State Senator recently!

It doesn’t have to be fitness related — join a trivia league, or volunteer somewhere. A little corner of this place — even if it’s temporary — can help anchor you.

Also, get a cat.

White woman in cowboy hat, black tshirt and jeans on a wooded path — not sure when the last time she went to the bathroom was and how that went for her

Dear Fieldpoppy,

I’m so used to leggings 24/7 I’m forgetting to unfasten my slacks & jeans when going to the bathroom. 👖

What can I do?

Signed, Button Buster.

Dear Buttons,

I’m glad to see you’re staying hydrated! But the leakproof underwear I linked in the first answer might come in handy for you too.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede (she/they), who lives and works on the land now known as Toronto, which is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, and is covered by Treaty 13, signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit. Cate is a coach, consultant and general thinker about relationships and meaning making. You can read earlier versions of the Ask Fieldpoppy column here, here and here.


Ask Fieldpoppy for March (Part 1)

(I initiated this “Dear Fieldpoppy” advice column a few months ago; today’s questions were so rich it ended up in two parts — part two will come this afternoon).

Dear Fieldpoppy,

Image of a white woman with dark hair hiding under the covers, from Alexandra Gorn on unsplash

As we re-enter the space previously known as The World, I am feeling utterly overwhelmed. I have so much work to do. I still have lots of care needs to attend to. It feels unbearable and I cry a lot of the time. Which makes me dehydrated. Which makes it worse. What suggestions do you have for balancing the impossible as we “return to normal not normal”?

Signed, dehydrated

Dear Fieldpoppy: I’ve lost my mojo and cannot for the life of me find it. I don’t even mind if I get back half of what I used to have, but even that seems out of reach. Suggestions?

Signed, what is mojo anyway?

First thing, for both of you: a big glass of water. I’ll join you. Let’s make a mindful ritual out of it.

pitcher of water with lemons in it, from @juliazolotovaph on unsplash

Run the tap so it’s nice and cold, get your favourite big glass or water bottle. I like a giant blue hand blown glass that looks like a chalice. Get some ice if that’s your jam (it’s not mine). Put something you like into the water, like a skoosh of cranberry juice, or an orange slice and a blueberry.

Sit down, and be with the water, like the mindfulness exercise where you contemplate a raisin for an hour. Put your finger in the glass and feel its wetness. Think about where it came from, and the miracle that is clean water coming out of your tap. Feel the glass, real in your hand. Lift the glass, intentionally, and slowly wet your lips and drink, slowly. Feel it going down your throat.

Now, put your feet on the ground, intentionally. Like mountain pose, but sitting down. Feel the floor under your toes. What are the sensations? Sit a little bit more upright, feeling yourself in your body with dignity, with grace.

What a goddamned amazing body it is. Today is the official two year anniversary of a global fucking pandemic. There is a goddamned war in Europe. People and spaces you relied on have turned out to think very differently than you. This body has kept you alive through the most uncertain, frightening, disorienting, exhausting time we never imagined we’d deal with in our lives. You are here. You have water in your hand and solid floor under your feet. You are a miracle.

Now, breathe. Breathe in some love for that body and soul of yours. Breathe out love for the world. Breathe in — one, two, three, four. Slowly. Breathe out — one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Do it again, and again. Pay attention to what is there — gratitude, love, resentment, sadness, worry, joy, loneliness, fatigue — these are all the miracles of being a human. A human who has held it together through stress you never expected to have to hold. What a goddamn miracle.

As the world “opens up again”, there is no “again.” It’s all new. We aren’t who we were two years ago, the world isn’t what it was two years ago, our bodies aren’t what they were two years ago. We see ourselves and the people around us differently. We’re older. We’ve been folded in on ourselves, literally and figuratively.

A white woman in child’s pose on a blue mat with images of constellations from unsplash @Luna_ActiveFitness

Now — emotionally — and literally — put yourself in child’s pose. Start there. Listen to what your body is telling you. Accept it. Be with it. Root up slowly, curiously, quietly, to find what is actually available to you in this new world. Listen to what your body is whispering at you. What is there, now? What do you need, now? Use your beginner’s mind — you won’t ever get the same mojo “back,” you won’t be able to balance the “same” things you balanced in the Before Times — but there is a new strength, energy, mojo, balance available. New care, new connections, new kinds of love. Listen for it. Let it be enough. Savour it. And see what grows in those new, smaller, tentative spaces.

I breathe in love with you.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede (she/they), who lives and works on the land now known as Toronto, which is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, and is covered by Treaty 13, singed with the Mississaugas of the Credit. Cate is a coach, consultant and general thinker about relationships and meaning making. You can read earlier versions of the Ask Fieldpoppy column here, here and here.


Dear Fieldpoppy: As a good feminist, what do I do with my body shame?

Dear Fieldpoppy:  My body is changing and I am struggling to be ok with it. I am a body positive person but every time I look in the mirror I gawp at my expanding middle and feel like a failure as a woman. HELP.

Dear Fieldpoppy:  The old friend I hooked up with last night told me I’d gotten thicker but ‘in a good way’. And yet I’m embarrassed and ashamed. Help!

Oh precious darlings, I want to wrap you in a cosy Turkish towel and thank you for saying out loud the thing that so many of us feel but hoard in silent shame.  Body positivity is a shifting, elusive thing, so much simpler in theory than in actual physical life.   I’m sure there are people – assigned-female-at-birth type people – who can look at their own bodies, every day, with unmixed pleasure – but I have yet to meet any of them in the flesh. 

This is a big topic, so settle in. And let me start with a story. When I was in Uganda in December, one of the people I’ve known for 15 years jumped off a motorbike to greet me, hugged me and said with great warmth and approval, Auntie!  You have gained!

It always takes me a while to let that settle for the loving, appreciative observation it is.  The origins are important of course – in Uganda, poverty, deprivation and illness are so prevalent that meaty curves are a sign of getting through life without too much trial.  But it’s the openness, really, that grabs me in the gut – the way bodies are a such an easy subject of comment.  Aunt, you are fat like me!  Aunt, what do you notice about Brendah?  Of course I notice she is larger – but that’s not a thing we say out loud!  And when I say, She seems so happy, they correct me.  No!  She is so fat! 

Here’s the thing, duckies. Most of us notice changes in size, up or down, in ourselves and others. We notice aging, and strain, and stiffness, and skin eruptions, and wrinkles. We are engaged in deep, intimate dialogues with our bodies every day, and we observe ourselves — sometimes with neutrality or pleasure, and sometimes with distress. And we observe others. But when we do the work to understand the harm of limited cultural expectations of body size, shape, ability, youth, flawless skin, especially for female-presenting type people, we train ourselves not to say anything about what we see in other people. In our culture, when someone comments on your body, it feels like a profound violation of the social contract – they are saying out loud the thing that we hide close to our hearts, that we hope – profoundly, with shame – that they won’t notice. That’s not really body acceptance, is it?

There’s a question that’s been teasing at my little brain for a long time now:  when you’re a body positive person, what do you do with the feelings you have about your own body when they’re not so positive?  And how do we reconcile the strange loop of body acceptance, understanding that individual size is a complex amalgam of social environment, food availability, mental health, genetics, metabolics, culture, etc — not a matter of individual will – and yet feel discomfort in our own bodies? We feel shame about our bodies – weight, wrinkles, physical limitations, the awful skin flare ups of my auto-inflammatory condition – and then, being good feminists, we feel shame about feeling shame.

But we’re embodied beings.  We move through time and space and intimacy and desire and sadness and hope and life with our bodies.  We’re not just a brain in an irrelevant meat casing – we’re biological beings, spiritual selves who feel and breathe and exhale into a biological system with the earth, with nature, and with other beings.  We need to fully inhabit our bodies, and I’m not sure our silence about our feelings about our bodies changing is a good thing.  Fat positivity is a good thing, body positivity is a good and absolutely necessary thing – but I think the way we currently talk about it is incomplete.  It’s a complex thing to be at peace with our bodies, and we need to be able to talk about it without shame, without silence.

We need better ways to think about discomfort with our bodies, ways to reflect on how to accept what is there, and how to engage with what we want to change. We need ways to talk about it that don’t invoke diet culture, that don’t make us hate ourselves, that don’t lead to simple assumptions that thin = good or weight loss = healthy (or easy!) or visible aging = bad.  We need to be able to feel loving and accepting about unchosen changes. And we need to find ways to lovingly recognize when we want to change something about food or movement or health because it’s limiting us or hurting us in some way – a recognition that comes from what your own body is doing, not an external measurement or comparison.  Or throwaway comment from someone you hooked up with.

For me – and this is something I’m still working out, a lifelong practice – for me, this starts with presence.  Not with looking in the mirror, or thinking about the fit of my pants, or letting someone else’s voice (cultural or a random hookup) overpower the actual experience of my body.  It starts with sitting quietly, in a kind of meditative pose, and paying attention to actual physical sensations.  Can I sit cross-legged without strain?  Do I feel uncomfortably full?  Am I digesting my food in a way that feels like good flow, not sluggish?  What feels easeful, and what feels grounded, and what feels at odds?

What does movement feel like – can I move my body in the ways I want to move it?  Can I still do that yoga pose I loved so much last year?  If I’m running or walking or lifting things, what does that actually feel like?  Not, can I run a kilometre in the same time I ran it 20 years ago or even last year – what does my body feel like running that kilometre?  Can I walk or ride the length of time I want to?  To get me the places I want to go, the things I want to see?  Do I feel growing strength in how long I can hold a yoga pose, swing a kettle bell?  Do I feel that IN me, without comparing myself to some other person’s kettle bell, movement, plank hold?

And most important, for me — what does my body feel like when I’m eating?  Am I putting food in my mouth to nourish myself, or am I stuffing tortilla chips or haribo in mindlessly, because I’m trying to squash some sensation or stress or emotion? 

Can I move my body through the world with spatial awareness?  Am I tripping over things, blocking people’s way?  Or am I in flow with the space around me?

Am I breathing? 

In this exploration, acceptance is about filling your trickster little brain with your strength, your resilience, appreciation for what your body can do, the feel of your feet on the ground, the gift of breathing. Rewiring those ol’ neural pathways from “my pants don’t fit, I suck” to “fuck my thighs are strong.” From “I’m so slow” to “I’m so grateful my body is working.” Not grudging acceptance because you feel you must as a good feminist, or acceptance because your changes are within certain external parameters. But whole new ways of talking to ourselves in a more generative way.

Find the love for yourself and hold on

And — if you find things in this exploration that you want to change, be more at ease with, I don’t think there’s shame in wanting to change them. But be in deep reflection with what that reason really is. Think about what it means if the reason is that you perceive people to treat you better when you’re a different size, or because you have a notion that X is an “acceptable” size and Y is not, or because you see someone else lifting something much heavier and feel lesser in comparison. If that’s the reason, your dance of change isn’t likely to make you feel better for long.

But if it’s out of mindfulness, ease, agility, strength? To eat with mindfulness to nourish your body and be grateful for the privilege of healthy food? To get stronger to be able to hike or ride to the places you want to go, to lift heavy things because it makes you feel like a superhero? To run faster because your mind and spirit clear and soar, to go deeper into the yoga poses that ease your body and spirit? There’s more to be found there than running away from something that makes you feel bad.

This is even true – and I know this is blasphemy in the body positive world – for people who make the thoughtful, mindful choices to incorporate medical interventions for weight loss to ease joints or prepare for surgery or tackle a flaring condition. Good, body positive feminists make these choices, but then feel like they have to hide it, instead of exploring the complexities of why they make them.

For me, body positivity is about doing these things because you are experiencing and loving and caring for your body and spirit from the inside out, not through a number on a scale, size of your pants, pressure from an internalized ideal. We are complex, and body positivity is complex, and we need to be able to talk about it.

Thank you for voicing your shame, dear hearts.  The more we talk about it, the more we open up the horrible, amazing beauty of being a human in this paradoxical world.  Sending your sweet bodies light and love.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is pictured here with her wildly imperfect body doing a miraculous thing in a miraculous place.


Ask Fieldpoppy: January

(I introduced the “Ask Fieldpoppy” column in December. I will tackle any question about health, fitness, life purpose, cats, menopause (or pretty much anything else) with my unique combination of compassion and strong opinions. Leave me a question in the comments or via the FIFI facebook page!)

Dear Fieldpoppy – what’s a girl to do when it’s cold out but not enough snow for many winter sports, the gyms and pools are closed because of that blasted omicron and you’re not feeling the love for an indoor yoga challenge right now?

— Restless swimmer

Dear Restless,

As we head into This Year of Our Covid 3, many of us are feeling a real drying up of the ol’ creative movement juices. Sit with what’s most important to you — getting fresh air and being outside? Feeling agile and not all tin-man-rusty? Feeling some sense of purpose for some part of the repetitive, dull days?Just injecting some damn joy into your life? Then be a little creative.

Last winter, I bought an apple watch, which came with three free months of apple fitness. I didn’t care for most of the classes, but I took a shine to the 20 minute Latin dance workouts. This is not a thing I have ever done before, but having a lithe Cuban chap teach me cheerfully how to lambada took me out of my funk. I felt so grateful and festive and WAY MORE INTERESTING than my usual self (well, until it got dark out and my condo windows acted like a mirror — but never mind).

You don’t have to start Latin dancing, but find something that has an element of play — and that will shock the stuck pathways in your brain and routine. Instead of yoga, play twister. Set up a hopscotch course in your hallway. Go outside and throw a tennis ball against the wall. Run around the block in exuberant spurts, like a kid (or like Phoebe running through the park on that one episode of Friends where Rachel runs into a police horse). Let go of the notion of challenge and fitness and just move. And remember that this too shall pass.

Dear Fieldpoppy,

I had an emotionally draining week plus perimenopause. I went for my usual Sunday morning run. About half way through body felt too “heavy” to keep jogging. Normally running shuts off my anxious brain but not that day. I don’t want to start a pattern of letting myself stop running in situations like that. But I walk/ran the rest of the way home. Did I still go for a run? Am I starting a bad pattern? Am I still a RUNNER?

Dear Fieldpoppy,

I‘ve just started the “222 in 2022” workout group and I’ve noticed some people are counting a walk as a workout. I’m a runner, but I’m injured, and I’m really struggling with thinking of a walk as a real workout. If I’m a runner, how does a walk count as a workout?

Dear Runners,

Aw, guys. You’ve both honed in on a key consequence about the identity of Being A Runner — the ineffable thing that can happen when you take up running, where you go from thinking of yourself as jogging around the block, marking the progress by adding lamp posts, to being the kind of person who knows your kilometre pace, tracks and adds distance methodically, and trains for events. But then when you’re not doing those things, does your running “count”?

There is a huge industry aimed at having people develop the identity of Being a Runner, leading to becoming the kind of person who talks about your 10K personal best at parties (remember parties?) and pees in full view of 10,000 other runners . (See the very successful Adidas “runners — yeah, we’re different” campaign a few years ago).

Being a Runner is great. You get stronger, you get to tap into that amazing sense of personal accomplishment when you do something you never thought you could do, and if, like me, you were a bookworm of a child, you can gaze upon your adult self as if you secretly had a superhero identity all along.

But! For many, many people, Peak Personal Runner Self is a fleeting (hee, pun) thing. The hegemonic discourse of Big Running would have you believe that running is the Ur-movement, and that if you are doing anything other than running, you are less than who you can be, and you are settling for something deeply inferior. (Except, maybe, if you switch teams to its cousin Big Cycling. And even then, aren’t triathletes REALLY the ones who know it all?). But do we have to let Big Running shape our existential sense of self?

Here’s the thing: some bodies can run, and that’s magnificent. And some bodies can’t run, because of basic physiology, or aging, or injury or emotional strain or weather or hormones or whatever-the-eff it is. And even if we can run, as we age, most of us slow down. (Most of us — the guy I used to train for marathons with is now winning global masters duathlons; I go for 4km jogs about twice a week. Either one is okay!) The trick to being an integrated human is to know when that sense of heaviness or “less than” is something to lean into to honour your full self, and when, maybe, it’s an appropriate time to push past it.

If you run, even a little bit, you are a runner. The end. And if you aren’t a runner — ever, or anymore — that’s okay too. You’re still a secret superhero.

Dear Fieldpoppy,

I live in a basement apartment, and our heat is controlled by the people who live upstairs. The thing is, they’re both women in their late 50s and they’re never cold. (I’m 24 but I’ve seen my mom deal with this hot flash thing). Can I ask them to be too hot so I’m not too cold?

— Wrapped in blankets on zoom

Dear Blankies,

Oh, the thermostat wars, once confined to office spaces and now transferred like everything else in our lives, into our homes. I would start with using your words and nicely letting the people upstairs know that you’re freezing. As your landlord for a (safe) space heater. But if they really can’t warm you up without melting themselves — and god knows I empathize, as an almost 57-year old post menopausal human — enjoy your collagen-abundant skin and invest in one of these walking-around sleeping bags. I’d add slippers tho.

Dear Fieldpoppy (via text): Alex wants me to do a 4 minute wall sit and a 4 minute plank, help.

Dear Help: Why are you texting me instead of letting Alex boss you around in accord with the natural order of the universe?

Ask Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is trying to cope with another winter lockdown in Toronto with jigsaw puzzles and cats.