fitness

Reflect

A recent CTV article was very excited about a new Disney short called Reflect, about a young ballet dancer named Bianca, and its body positivity message. As the resident fat ballerina on this blog, I had to watch it.

Hilary Bradfield, the creator, says “I feel like I’m a body positive person in principle, but when it’s on a personal level, it’s a lot harder to be body positive. I feel this deeply: despite repeated self-talk, I sometimes hate how I look.

It’s so short that the introduction by the creator was almost as long as the film itself so I watched it several times. I wanted to love it. The animation itself was well-done. It had the kind of uplifting Disney “girl overcomes barriers and has a happy ending” story that makes me smile.

But somehow it didn’t, quite. Was it too short to engage me? Too unrealistic? I think it was the latter, which is deeply weird; it’s Disney – of course it’s unrealistic!

Bianca was too small/young to be dancing en pointe (kids should be at least 12 or so to prevent permanent damage to growing bones). Triple pirouettes are hard. And she was so round compared to the stick figure dancers in her class! Those other kids would not have been able to stand in real life, let alone dance.

In some ways, I wanted Bianca to do more ordinary things and be happy, and her classmates and teacher to at least notice her. I know that wouldn’t have been as much of a Disney story that satisfies kids.

But maybe it would have resonated more with adult fat ballerina me who has already learned not to notice anything in the mirror except posture and position. The fat ballerina who will never be any good dancer, but who loves dancing anyway.

Sorry – no pictures of Disney’s Bianca, so you get me in a black leotard, at the end of a successful single pirouette. I have a huge smile.

I hear that others love Reflect and see themselves in Bianca. I am curious about what you think. Am I putting too much onto the shoulders of this young dancer to be a role model but also somewhat ordinary? What is the right balance of expectations for a plus sized or otherwise different person with talent?

fitness

Summer is for FUN, right?

Happy July! I hope you’re enjoying your summer as much as I am, or at least as much as I’m trying to.  

I have pretty much let go of trying to get to my aquafit classes for summertime. I am sorry about that, since that’s ultimately the best way for me to get a “good” workout right now. I guess by good I mean my heartrate in the cardio zone on my Fitbit and getting me really out of breath. That’s the feeling that I’ve avoided since I was in Grade 1 and first got assigned a “morning run” (I wrote about that here). I’m afraid of that intense feeling, honestly, but I have also been able to enjoy it for the first time this year, as I wrote about back in spring.

Selfie of a woman on a beach, with water in background. She is wearing sunglasses and a pink and blue striped swim top and black swim bottom.
Soaking up some sun on Lake Huron

So… I’m not getting to my “gym,” to get that intense feeling, because I’ve been busy! I’ve spent two of the past five weeks camping at my beloved Pinery Provincial Park. In that same five weeks, I’ve also played two concerts and a festival with my band – more than seven performances.

All of that, plus dog walking and gardening, has kept me pretty active and I’m trying to applaud my activity, while remembering my longer term goals are just that – long term – so they are not defined by a two month period. Also, I’m still only eight months out from arthroscopic hip surgery, my second in two years.

In late September 2021 I had a “rim trim” and labral repair on my left hip. Apparently I have “deep” hip sockets; in photographs my labrum looked like a feather, completely shredded to nothingness. I had the same surgery in 2019 on my right side, and that surgery gave me relief from a debilitating level of pain. My left side was already less of a problem, but the surgeon felt that since my right side had improved, the left was also likely to benefit.

The repair involves cutting away all the damaged cartilage and then cutting a ‘notch’ in my hip socket to allow my femur to swing more freely…Sounds intense right? It is, but honestly my life is SO much improved! And it just keeps getting better. That is, I just keep feeling better. I hiked 16km one day in June, and I was basically just fine. I’m finding, in fact that I’m much more comfortable after hiking and camping than after a week at my desk teaching online.

An image of a wooden stairway in a park, about 2 flights down, shown from the top and surrounded by green plants.
On the Pinery’s Cedars Trail. It once struck fear in me, but no longer!

All of that is to say that I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t continued with my intensive cardio, but I am sure thrilled I can enjoy and be really active in other ways. I had to take this photo of the staircase on the hike I took in June. I ROCKED IT in a way that I could never have before my hip repairs!

I also really enjoyed being to give five performances in three days at the Home County Festival without having to pop Tylenol-3s and Advil as I have in the past… Most of all though, I’m working on that mental shift – seeing my behaviours, my activity and my body as my own. I’m about to embark on a cross-continental driving trip to Alberta and British Columbia to hike and see my family. I don’t know how far up those BIG mountains I can get, but I sure look forward to telling you about it!

For now, here is a photo of me with my husband, having a great time at the Home County Music and Art Festival. I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer.

Photo of man in white shirt, jeans and ball cap holding cello and woman in a short blue dress and cowboy boots holding a banjo. Both are leaning forward and singing into a single microphone.
Singing is one of the great joys in life for me, here with Martin Horak. Thanks to Suzanne Onn for the photo.
beach body · body image · fashion · feminism · normative bodies

Bodiless Swimsuit Ads Reinforce Body Norms Too

It is summer swim season! I know this because I see on my Facebook feed “beach body” memes and a dramatic uptick in swimsuit advertising.

a cute seal with the words in meme font Beach body ready...for winter
The least repulsive of the repulsive memes about beach bodies. Because cute seal.

I normally don’t pay much attention to swimwear ads because swimsuits are not that important to me. However, I can understand the appeal of shopping online: no store assistants, no dressing rooms, no drama with wrestling with ill-fitting suits.

Swimsuits from a Facebook ad that have no models wearing them.
Swimsuits from a Facebook ad that have no models wearing them. Okay, there’s one person, but the suit looks drawn on!

But this year, I have noticed that a few swimwear ads that feature either 3D-drawn images or the actual suits put on photoshopped-out mannequins. I don’t remember seeing before ads with these hovering bodies that are legless, armless, torsoless.

Tracy has noticed how the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated gives women equal opportunity to be objectified. Obviously that’s not good. If sexified suits objectify women regardless of age, and if a steady diet of these images still perpetuates body ideals, then is no body in the swimsuits our inclusive and evolved solution?

The decision to dis-embody models in these ads is likely far more economic than activist: I’m sure it’s cheaper to use realistic pictures or torso mannequins than to hire real people, and shoppers may have an easier time imagining themselves in the suit without a real body in it for comparison.

And maybe I’m making too much of these ads, but they weird me out. They make me think of Kevin Bacon as the Hollow Man in a tankini. The disembodied swimsuit model–as imperfectly resembling a human being in a way that causes “uneasiness and revulsion”–should be added to the graph visualizing the uncanny valley hypothesis.

The uncanny valley graph portraying how non-human bodies create uncertainty and revulsion the more realistic they become. Added to the image is "disembodied swimsuit ads."
By Smurrayinchester – self-made, based on image by Masahiro Mori and Karl MacDorman at CC BY-SA 3.0. Adapted by a weirded-out me.

From my feminist perspective, the no-body in these ads is not equivalent to everybody: it removes the one thing people need to wear these suits in the first place. These ads may avoid replicating images of so-called ideal bodies, but they also remove the bodies people have–complete with colour, fat, wrinkles, blemishes, scars, and hair. Ironically, the absence of real bodies features the ultimate normative body, one that is stripped of all uniqueness of size, shape, and mobility differences. In the case of the leaky, hysterical cis-female body so feared and scorned by patriarchy, what body is more “perfect” than the one that does not exist at all?

I tried to find answers to my questions (except the last one, which was rhetorical) with more Internet. While many web articles give advice on purchasing swimsuits by size, fit, fabric, style, cost, coverage, quality, versatility, quality, and “features” (like pockets), none described whether I should buy online a suit modelled by a real but photoshopped body or by an invisible but perfect fake body. I did notice that a few articles–such as Teen Vogue and TripSavvy–used these body-less swimsuit images in their feature banners as well.

For the record, in all this web searching I did notice more body-diverse swimwear than I have seen in the past. After staring at row upon row of swim-suited no-bodies, I was comforted and excited by these all-too-human ads.

Then, I realized that online shopping has its own trappings, and I closed my laptop altogether. Maybe going into an actual store to try swimwear on my own body is looking not be so bad after all.

family · fitness · habits · motivation

I had a plan – where did it go?

Well this is not the post I expected to write this month! A few months back I wrote Sam that I had been exploring and really enjoying exercise and would like to regularly blog about aquafit. At that time, I’d been going to the pool two to three times per week for a few months. It was a habit and it felt good. I also had started really enjoying the feeling of getting a good cardio workout. That itself felt like a minor miracle.  

I wrote my introductory post and looked forward to seeing what was coming on my journey of digging into exercise. It turns out what was awaiting me the last month was a lot of frustration and not getting to exercise! This is not new – many people struggle to get to their gym or their exercise. Women especially are conditioned to put our needs after others. In my case, historically it’s been really easy to distract me from exercise because honestly, I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to do it.

This is different though. I want to get there. Apparently though, wanting isn’t always enough. I’ve only been to the pool a couple of times since mid-April. And it shows. It shows in my mindset, which is more easily frustrated. It shows in my aching hips that don’t want to sit for hours while I teach and grade. It shows in my own disappointment too.

Now I have good reasons for not getting to the gym. I’m on a job search that is going s.l.o.w.l.y. (I teach college on contract and I want a permanent, student-facing job!). My husband is on sabbatical in Italy for the month of May. He’s working hard too and I’m happy to support him, but oh boy, I didn’t anticipate how many things would go sideways at home with our kids while he was away, or how much of our lives relate to getting our kids to places. I am struggling between my kids’ needs and my own, and my own have been losing out.

Selfie of a woman with greying hair and brown sunglasses in front of a blooming pink magnolia tree. She has bright sunlight on her face and is wearing a navy coloured tshirt reading "halfway between"
On my dog walk, I had to stop in front of this beautifully blooming magnolia tree

In truth, all reasons for not exercising are “good” reasons. Our reasons can be legitimate even when they are frustrating or disappointing. Canadian society seems to have a fixation with connecting fitness with guilt and judgement (as anyone who knows this blog knows). The last thing I want to do in writing today is to contribute a sense of judgment of people’s choices. What I do want to acknowledge (mainly mainly to myself) is that for the first time I really miss exercising. That makes this post another in my posts celebrating my journey toward enjoying and, I would say, reclaiming my body as my own for my own use. THAT feels pretty good to say.

So since I’m missing activity, and my growing strength and confidence as (dare I say it?) an athlete, it seems that my next challenge is to actually get back in the pool, and doing some late spring hiking. I can see I need to re-establish my routines and make space for myself in my life. I’m working on that now. So far the best I can do is get out each day to walk my dog. It’s a start – I’ll let you know in a month how it went!

fitness

Unexpected Surprise After Nearly 30 Days of Yoga

I am doing the 30-day yoga thing. Me and nearly everyone on the blog and half my clients and half my world. Cate did a round-up of reasons why a few weeks ago. Today I want to explore some of what has come up for me during this commitment to movement nearly every day. I’m especially interested in some of the surprises it has held for me, the things I didn’t expect, the kind of stuff that yoga promises but takes one by surprise nonetheless. 

This is the second year I have engaged in this project. Last year, I was in the throes of break-up grief and held onto it like the lifeline it was. It reminded me I was human and loveable. I suppose for some folks that is pretty profound but I feel fortunate in my personality constellation, that it doesn’t take too much to remind me of that fact, even when I’m being painfully let down by a human that loved me. So last year, the experience was visceral but kind of literal. Show up, move in the ways that feel good, breathe like you love yourself. Done.

This year, I was excited to engage in the project again, knowing what to expect a little more. I also had a better capacity and commitment to do it nearly every day. I think I finished the 30 days sometime in the middle of February last year. This year, I have been able to double up some days to make up for the days I miss or do something else. I’m still appreciating all the stuff I appreciated last year. I like how short they are. They are sometimes very technical but it’s only one thing, not a whole class of difficult stuff. I like the way she invites me into mindfulness and I love how gentle and forgiving her language is. Yet, in spite of this spaciousness, I have tripped over myself in a surprising way.

I have been pretty diligent in looking to get better at yoga. I’m paying attention to the next level of awareness of my body and where it is placed in space. I am trying to challenge the parts of me that have been traditionally stuck (in the physical or metaphorical sense). I’ve been digging deep where invited and hanging on a little longer. When I lower from plank, I do it s l o w l y. When I rise up before a twist, I really visualize and try to actualize growing taller, making space in the vertebrae before moving a little farther around. When I fold, I’m looking for ways to fold more fully. 

The truth is, it’s working. I am getting better at it. I am stronger in my arms and shoulders. I am more flexible in my hips.  My feet are definitely stronger. When I sit up, head over heart, heart over pelvis, I know where I am in my body and I’m carrying that sense all over the place. AND YET. . .

I have discovered a really sad little part of me that isn’t happy with all this objective progress and accomplishment. I have noticed that she thinks we should be stronger than this already and that the progress isn’t as much as it should be. She is craving some kind of transformation into an idea of graceful yogi that she simultaneously does not believe is possible. She is rejecting what is and longing for what could be, or what should have been if we’d been doing this diligently all along. 

In examining this part, I realize a few things. I am struck by how similar this expression is to the expression of a longing to be “thin”. That “if only-I should already-I could have-why didn’t I-what’s wrong with me” thing that I see a lot of in my work but has never felt this kind of “alive” in me before now. That makes me wonder where it is from and how much of it is really mine. It also makes me wonder if this little part’s fixation on her lack of willowy strength and flexibility is masking a whole lot of her experience of willowy strength and flexibility. So much of the “I don’t look right” felt sense of the body manages to ignore the clear and present beauty that exists. Even when we try to move away from any idea of “beauty” and shift it to strength, flexibility, balance, function and presence, there is still a risk of sliding into the not-good-enough space that is lurking always for almost all of us.

I’m having a memory of me at 12 walking along a street with storefront windows. I am catching my reflection and fixating on how my knees seem to stay bent in a weird way throughout my stride. It makes me seem like I’m tromping along in a galumphy way and I hate it. I long to be lengthy and graceful, not the angular, flailing and awkward human in the reflection of the windows. I imagine that if I could be that person, that I will find the acceptance and friendship that I think I don’t have. I imagine I will be popular and loved and happy. I feel I am none of these things.

This memory has come stumbling in, so very unexpectedly, yet entirely predictably given the practice I’m in. Every day, I’m sitting and noticing. Every day, I am tuning into my body and wondering what’s up, what’s there. I guess it’s a 12 year-old, a super sad and alone 12 year old that doesn’t imagine anyone but her parents will ever love her. She is someone detached from the growth, progression and accomplishments of the rest of me. She got left behind somehow and she is so vulnerable.

It turns out my task this year in the 30 days of yoga is to discover and tend to that aspect. This has not a thing to do with whether I will ever have the strength and form to do a good chaturanga to up-dog. I mean, I might if I keep it up but that’s not really the point. Oh, Yoga, WTF? Why you gotta be so. . . .real?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Lots more to learn still.

Midsummer scene of a Willow tree by a river representing my longing for flexible strength
A very willowy Willow
accessibility · body image · fitness · SamanthaWalsh

Body Diversity (Guest Post)

By Samantha Walsh

Saturday was the Protest against Divisiveness with @connectionarts. It really was not a protest, but more of an installation. The event was to draw attention to the need for unity and collaboration.

Each model was able to pick their own slogan. I picked “Human Diversity.” I think this speaks to the need to value disability and that the notion of one standard body is a myth. Additionally, difference makes us stronger as a society.

The event offered an opportunity for onlookers to better understand why folks would be compelled to participate in body painting. My friend @elisabethalicee was my artist. (There were more models than artists.) I think she did a great job. The installation took place in time square and there was a mile long parade after to the flat iron building.

This was a very different experience than the other two events I have participated in. There was a lot more media. Folks in Times Square were a lot more vocal and sometimes rude. The day overall was great. However, I did end up putting clothes on part way through the parade, because I was at the back end of the parade and at points felt unsafe.

Overall, the experience was great and gave me a lot to think about. Another cool feature of yesterday is I have done enough body painting that I now know some folks from the past. Additionally, I met a really cool fellow disabled woman, she and I were steadfast in the feeling that representation matters.

I am so pleased Human Connection Arts is in my life.

Samantha Walsh is a Doctoral Candidate in Sociology. She also works in the Not-For-Profit Sector.

You can read all of Samantha’s posts here.

body image · clothing · femalestrength · fitness

Making peace with our changing bodies

“When you get thin again, can I have your bigger clothes?”

Someone at a party asked one of my friends that last week.  If I squint really hard and ignore toxic body shaming culture, I might be able to imagine that this person thought she was giving my friend a compliment.  “That’s a great outfit!  You’re such a fit person you’ll lose that baby weight just like that!  You’re so pretty in that — I wish I looked like you!”  I guess?

My friend is a fitness instructor, a former body builder, and someone who has fought disordered eating, body shaming and body obsession for a long time.  Her mission is to support women to love their bodies for what they can do, whatever shape or ability that is, to help them build emotional and physical strength.  She’s absolutely beautiful, luminous and kind, inside and out.

She had a baby six weeks ago.  She worked out throughout her pregnancy in a careful way, had a healthy birth and gorgeous wee baby, and has worked hard to love and be at peace with her larger body.  She went to that party feeling like she looked great.

And this one comment completely knocked the breath out of her, shredded the colourful, silken threads of self love she’d spun, painstakingly, one at a time.

***

HM The Queen Attends Trooping The ColourBody shaming and body policing are so much a part of our culture that a lot of the time, we don’t even notice them, unless they are shockingly overt — like this gym in Connecticut that sent out an email telling its customers to grab their excess flesh and imagine what that would look like in summer photos — “god forbid, a side pic sitting down!” — or the dank pockets of the celebrity internet that define women only through their bodies and competition.  I won’t link to these places, but one of this week’s headlines speaks for them all:  With the spotlight strong, can Duchess Meghan outdo Kate Middleton’s success in restoring her pre-baby body?

Most of these moments are so woven into our day to day lives that they’re noteworthy only when they hit us right in the most tender parts of our souls.  But whether or not we notice them, they twist how we experience ourselves.  And even when we have huge feminist reflexivity about this, we still get entangled.

***

Over the past few months, I’ve been committing some of those body shaming microaggressions on myself.  I’m 54.  I’m not quite menopausal, but Things are Definitely Changing in my body.  I’m fit and active — I’ve worked out 148 times so far this year, and am well on my way to hitting 300 or more again for the year.  I’m loving feminist crossfit, and training on a sweet new bike for this trip I’m doing with Susan, Sam, Sarah and others in Newfoundland in two weeks. 

But I’ve also gained weight this year.  Even though several people have commented on how “buff” I look from the crossfit, have said I look fit — even hot — all I see is a heavier, thicker middle.  My clothes don’t fit — not my favourite jeans, or a lot of my work clothes.  I’ve become that middle aged woman wearing crossfit shoes, leggings, a flowy top and an Interesting Scarf to everything.  It’s disheartening to have to shove piece after piece of clothing back into the closet.  And I’ve taken to making comments about myself that chastise myself for the weight gain.  Out loud.  To others.  You know the ones.

I know in my head that I’m fit and strong.  I have a lot of joy from moving my body.  I know that some of my weight gain is muscle, and some of it is being 54 and endlessly menstruating.  Because I’m still having mostly regular periods at this advanced age, I seem to be always experiencing the PMS-y hormones that make me bloated.  I also have some gut issues that contribute to bloatiness.  (And god knows, I probably sleep with the light on).

And at the same time, I’m in the “menopausal transition,” which includes, as this study puts it, “unfavorable alterations in body composition, which abruptly worsen at the onset of the menopausal transition and then abate in postmenopause.”  Those “unfavorable alterations” are basically an increase in fat mass in the average woman that doubles every year for the key time of menopause (about three years), and a loss of lean mass.

Our bodies change when we’re 12 or so, and it’s unnerving then. Pregnancy is a hormonal carnival.  A few people’s bodies seem to experience birth and breastfeeding without any noticeable lingering effect, but most are changed in some way forever.  The waxing and waning of hormones affects our mental health, our energy, our appetites, our sleep, our metabolism, our immune systems.   Peri-menopause is another unpredictable extravaganza, and then there is all of the older life stuff.  There is no “set point.”  It’s dynamic, always.

That is life, and this is what my body is at this stage of my life.  Just like my post-partum friend’s body is what it is.  There is no “back to normal” — there is only forward, aging, changing bodies, and the challenge of loving ourselves as we are, finding our fierce warrior selves.

The force of all of this shows up in so many ways. My friend said this morning “I don’t mind my bigger body but I hate that none of my clothes look good, and I can’t afford to buy new clothes right now.”

Not fitting into my clothes is a big trigger for me, too.  After she said that, I had a warrior moment.  (Well, a warrior moment with a credit card.  I’m privileged in that I can afford this, right now).  I  went on a mission to my favourite store that features affordable Canadian designers.  I decided I was going to leave with a wardrobe of work and dressy casual clothes that made me feel good in my body, felt good on my body, inspired me.  I realized I hadn’t actually bought new warm weather work clothes in about three years, always waiting for that moment when my other clothes would fit me again.

I bought five dresses, two pairs of leggings and two tops.  They fit me well.  They flare and cling in the right places.  I feel strong and pretty in them.  I feel grown up, not middle aged.  (This is Emmylou, checking them out).

IMG_8469.jpeg

They’re a departure from what I’ve been wearing.  And trying them on, having a good shopping experience, finding things that work for my body as it is — I tilted back up into liking myself again.

I think I’ll go get an ice cream cone.

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives and works in Toronto. She blogs here two or three times a month.

fitness

The damn photo contest again (Sam and Tracy vent)

Something more recent blog readers may not know is that before we turned 50, Sam and I each took at turn at the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating Program. We both came away with mixed feelings. Some of the info was helpful and the focus on “healthy habits” matched a lot of what we already thought. But we both absolutely despise the photo contest. And since we are former clients, we each get an email encouraging us to vote on the best “transformation” every six months (every six months they have a new group commit to a year of coaching). That happened this week. And we started venting to each other all over again. Now we are going to vent about it to whoever wants to read on…

Sam

What I hate most about the Precision Nutrition photo competition is the dishonesty.

In the very early 1980s my very best friend wanted to be in our town’s beauty pageant but she didn’t want to take part in the bathing suit competition. They tried to reassure her that it wasn’t about looking good in a bikini. Instead, it was about showing that you took good care of your body and that you had confidence in a bathing suit. She argued back. We were both budding feminists. Isn’t it easier to have confidence if you look great in a bikini? How do you know who is taking care of their body? All you see is them in a bikini? But they were having none of it. She took part and refused to wear a bathing suit. She lost gracefully in a beautiful beach caftan. I miss you Leeanne!

The PN photo competition is the same. I asked about it when I was enrolled in the program. I said it didn’t seem to match all of their material on health and wellness. Why the focus on appearance? Like the beauty pageant, they said it was really about confidence and well-being. You could tell from the contestant’s posture that they were happier. You could tell from the glow of their skin that they were healthier. It’s an inner transformation contest!

Except what we are judging is the exterior. And this idea that you read things off a person’s body is pernicious. Like people who think they can tell you’re lazy by looking at your weight. Or worse, in children’s stories, that we can tell that you’re evil because you’re ugly. Or in the worst of children’s stories that your soul is deformed because your body is disabled.

So if you’re judging bodies, judge bodies. That’s not my thing. But be honest about it. Don’t say you’re judging health, wellness, or confidence.

Tracy

I don’t love dishonesty either. The whole idea of judging someone’s “transformation,” whether inner or outer, makes me really uncomfortable. And like Sam says, if you’re only going by the before and after photo, then it’s totally based on the body transformation.

If you wanted to judge something more, then how about asking them to write an essay? Or do a Q&A?

I look at the photos and I just feel really sad for the women in them. A year of working on healthy habits and it comes down to this? A photo to put beside your “before” photo so we can see and judge how you’ve changed. It’s excruciating to look at grown women posing in swimsuits or workout gear, under a headline that tells you for each how many inches and pounds she lost, so they can be scored in a contest.

It feels demeaning in all the ways a beauty pageant is demeaning. Surely we are more than our bodies? And surely we ought not be judged for our bodies, on the basis of whether someone finds them pleasing or approves of our physical transformation?

When I did it they spent an entire month trying to get us to have a professional photo shoot. Of course they would. The photo contest is probably one of their biggest ways to bring in new clients, and the better the pictures the better the (free) advertising. I quite resented that part too–the many arguments they gave to encourage everyone (when we are already paying a lot) to get professional “swimsuit” pics so they can use them in their advertising. For sure no matter who you are the amateur selfie smartphone “before” picture will not be as good as a professional “after” shot taken in a studio by an actual photographer with an actual camera. That would be true even if the “before” was taken just minutes before the “after”!

I hated the photo contest when I did PN, and I still think it’s the worst part of the entire year.

fitness

Who is plus sized and who is not? Sam weighs in (again) on labels and identity

Of all the fights not to get into on the internet, the worst sort is when someone claims a particular label and you argue that they aren’t it. Whatever it is. Feminist. Fat. Liberal. Plus sized. Cyclist. Runner. Introvert.

The thing is when someone claims a label for themselves they’ve got more at stake than you do. It matters to them in ways you might not understand.

Here is one example from my life.

I say I’m a parent and I rarely identify as a mother. Gendered parenting roles aren’t my thing. I don’t entirely abstain from gender. I mostly wear skirts and dresses and I wear lipstick while cycling! But as a parent, my connection to my kids isn’t experienced (for me) as a gendered thing. There’s no “wait till your father gets home” around here. We don’t roll that way. You can correct me and say that technically I’m also a mother, as well as a parent. Fine. But you’re missing out on my perspective on my life. There’s information there that you don’t have. Labels matter especially when it comes to self identification.

Here’s two more that matter to me:

Thanks Sarah for the birthday pins! (The pins read “feminist” and “introvert.”)

But here the issue is more complicated. It’s about who gets to claim the label “plus sized.”

You’ll recall in my recent blog post about the label “fat” I admitted that sometimes I claimed the label “fat” and sometimes I didn’t. One example of a time when I claim it is when people start opining about the possibility of being fat and fit. Then I stand up proud and say, over here. Look at me. “I weigh x number of pounds and just rode my bike y number of kilometers.”

When don’t I claim the label “fat”? When I worry that relatively smaller fat people like me are crowding out debates and discussion. There’s fat phobia out there in the world that I don’t encounter. I rarely need to seek size accommodation. Regular airplane seats and seat belts fit me just fine and pretty much all clothing stores sell things that fit. I’m fat, yes, but still pretty privileged in terms of my size.

But plus sized seems to me to be a pretty factual label, neutral even. Regular sizes run 0-14. Plus sized is 16 and up. That’s the dividing line in most stores. I’m fat, not plus sized.

So when a friend, a much smaller friend, described herself as plus sized I spoke up and corrected her. You’re size 8, I said. You’re not plus sized.

She pointed out that she feels plus sized. What does that mean? Well, a modeling company she’d spoken to about modeling said they didn’t need any more plus sized models. They saw her as plus sized. People name call her and she’s been bullied because of her size. She’s definitely not thin or skinny. But is everyone who isn’t skinny “plus sized”? Have we lost track of normal?

I’m reminded of a line from the TV show The Good Place about the need for a medium place, nor heaven or hell, but a place for the rest of us who aren’t perfect but aren’t evil either.

Heck, these days people are calling Rhianna plus sized. See Calling Rihanna Plus-Size Could Be The Conversation We All Need.

Here’s Rhianna’s response.

Anyway, the label “plus sized” means something to this young woman. Who am I to decide she can’t claim it? Why do I feel the need to tell her she isn’t plus sized?

What’s your take on these debates about who is and who isn’t plus-sized?

body image · diets · fat · fitness · tbt

Imagine if size really didn’t matter. Can you? #tbt

Today I’m doing a “Throwback Thursday” post where I invite you, once again, to imagine how different life would be if we actually lived in a world where size doesn’t matter. Happy Thursday!