Happy Betwixtmas!

I’ve written about this week before, the strange week between Christmas and New Year’s that we’re calling Betwixtmas now.

Mostly for me, it’s never been a thing. For me, for most of my life, the week between Christmas and New Year’s has been a regular working week. The people I grew up with held the kinds of jobs that didn’t go on hold. My parents were bakers and my friends’ parents were mechanics, nurses, transit workers, truck drivers, police officers, and so on. Only the school teachers and maybe some civil servants had the week off. Kids were off school but parents worked and somehow we all had to cope.

I didn’t know any university professors.

And my life for a long while also fell into the ‘working the week after Christmas’ pattern. As a student journalist that was the week of cheap hotels and the annual meeting of Canadian University Press. As a professor, it was the week of the American Philosophical Association’s Eastern Division meeting. I know lots of people hated the timing but I loved it. After a week off before Christmas with family, I confess I was ready for a week of seeing old friends and of Philosophy.

The APA has long since given up that less than family friendly date and now its new dates instead overlap with the start of the teaching term in Canada. Me, I’ve joined the rest of the working professionals for whom the week between Christmas and New Year is technically a holiday. I say ‘technically’ because I also have a long academic to do list–drafts of papers, referee reports, reviews of people going up for promotion for other universities, etc etc. If you’re an academic, you know the drill.

This year this week has seemed extra ‘betwixt and between’ because thanks to the pandemic, lots of things to do just aren’t happening. I like to see friends this week and we’re not doing very much of that. I had a long list of movies I wanted to see in the theatre but that isn’t happening either. I am reading fiction, catching up on some shows I’ve wanted to watch (Witcher!), eating lots of chocolates, wearing my new socks, and riding my bike lots.

Just 60 km left before I reach my year end goal of 5500 km!

Also, I definitely need to eat a vegetable!

(I like the suggestion of someone on our Facebook page that for the weeks around the holidays, clementines count as vegetables.)

How do you approach the week between Christmas and New Year’s? What’s on your plate this week?

Here’s my past post about this week:

fitness · holidays · self care · yoga

Three Things From Christine

I tried to make this into a sensible, all-encompassing post with a unified message.

It didn’t work.

So, here are three fitness/wellness/self-care things that are on my mind right now:

1) Being in the in-between

I am feeling no need to try to be productive or to try and accomplish anything this week but I don’t want to fall into the mindless blah of the in-between.

Writing my daily ‘Making Space’ posts and taking walks with Khalee are just enough to keep my days from being too aimless while still being pretty chill.

A dog on a lit leash stands on snow.
Khalee and I like walking on the squishy snow on the path near my house. She sniffs it a lot more than I do, though. Image description: Khalee, my light-haired dog is on her LED leash the path at night. The snow is pitted with footprints from people and dogs.

2) 12 Days of Yoga

This has proven to be more challenging than I thought it would be. I have done yoga everyday but sometimes I am doing the practice from memory rather than going along with the video.

It’s not that I don’t have time and I am physically able to do it. I just have had some unexpected things crop up and I’m surprised at how tricky it has been to work around them and get the video on at a time when I can do it.

That being said, though, I am finding a real difference in how my hips feel when I do the circular sort of movement that Adriene demonstrates to get into extended child’s pose.

A small dog stretches on a purple yoga mat
I kind of wish Khalee would follow this dog’s example and do yoga on her own mat instead of trying to share mine! Image description: a small dog does a big stretch on a purple yoga mat

3) Making Space -> Go Team

Since December 1, I have been doing a daily ‘Making Space’ post to remind us to make space for ourselves in our own lives.

On January 1, I’m going to switch over to ‘Go Team’ daily posts. Those posts will be about encouraging you to be kind to yourself as you adopt new habits and routines in the new year.

Obviously, you can start a new habit or routine at any point in the year. But, since lots of people enjoy using January 1 as a starting point, I’m going to gather up a big bag of encouragement and travel along with you, handing it out like snacks on a road trip.

And, as always, I’ll be awarding gold stars for your efforts.

A gold star on a black background.
Just one of the many gold stars I have in store for you in January. Image description: a thinking gold star against a black background.

Sooooo, what have you been up to since last Tuesday?

fitness · habits · holidays · planning

Go Team: Give Yourself Some Space

So, tomorrow is the 1st of December.

Whether you are just finishing up the end of the year or you are getting ready for the holidays you celebrate, you probably have some extra items on your to do list this month.

When you combine that with the ambient time pressure that December generates, you end up not only having more to do but you feel like you have way less time than you need to do it.

When that kind of pressure happens and something’s got to give, we usually sacrifice something personal like our fitness activities, our meditation, or any breaks we might take to look after ourselves.

I wonder if you can avoid that trap this year (or at least not get caught so firmly) by making some space for yourself in your own head…and hopefully in your own schedule.

Maybe you won’t have time for your usual fitness routine but perhaps you could make space for some stretches.

Perhaps there will be too many people around for you to meditate, perhaps you could take a short walk, or do some doodling, or anything else that will put you firmly in the moment, for a moment.

Or maybe you can even go the other way and instead of shortening your time for yourself, you can find a way to create space to add extra personal time to your schedule. Committing to some yoga first thing in the morning or some meditative colouring right before bed might help you feel more at ease during the rest of the day.

I know some of you are reading this and despairing that there is no way for you to keep up any sort of a routine and you definitely can’t add anything to your day.

If that’s how you are feeling, then I’d like you to create space by letting yourself off the hook. Try to avoid telling yourself what you *should* be doing or feeling this month and embrace the feeling of running around. Sometimes it’s the disconnect between what you think you should be doing and what you actually are doing that causes the most distress.

If you can say ‘December is utter madness and I am just rolling with it.’ things may go more smoothly.

Really, I just want you to be kind to yourself, whatever form that might take this month, or at any time.

Here’s your star for your efforts!

Image description: a large foldable paper star is hanging on a white door.​
This is my largest gold star, a large paper one that was a gift from my friend Catherine. Image description: a large gold foldable paper star decorated with spirals is hanging from a string on a white door.

fitness · holidays · intuitive eating

Intuitive Eaters Unite! A Holiday Bill of Rights

Image description: a written list of Intuitive Eater’s Holiday Bill of Rights, with seven rights listed (to be discussed in the body of the post) and credited to @evelyntribole and including a round button that says “Evelyn Tribole The Original Intuitive Eating Pro”

I’m a big fan of intuitive eating and try to practice it in my daily life. I have blogged about it often, making commitments and recommitments to it over the life of the blog. It’s an approach to eating, championed by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, originally in the book Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach, first published in 1995 and now in its fourth edition. They also have a great website that outlines the main principles of this approach and provides basic information about it through a blog, links to the books, and an active online community that people can join.

I had to smile when Sam sent me this “intuitive eater’s holiday bill of rights,” by Evelyn Tribole, self-described as “The Original Intuitive Eating Pro.” The festive season is upon us, and with it many holiday events with food, glorious food, as a focal point. I for one love the seasonal favourites, from sugar cookies to Christmas cakes jammed with dried fruits, nuts, and bursting with flavour. I love vegan cheese boards and special hors d’oeuvres that no one much takes the time to make at other times of year. And I’m a big fan of cozying up with a mug of hot cider made extra yummy with cinnamon and cloves.

Last year most of us had many fewer gatherings, if we gathered at all (I didn’t). So we have the added bonus this year of being in a COVID lull (I won’t say we’re on the other side of COVID quite yet because I don’t want to tempt the heavens) that enables us to gather with friends and family, not just in homes, but also at restaurants.

So…there will be food and people. And where these two come together, so do the mixed messages, the pronouncements from people about how “they really shouldn’t,” the pressure to eat this once-a-year thing that [insert rarely seen member of the family] made just for you because you’ve loved it since you were a kid, a table abundant with choice and more than you can possible comfortably eat, and maybe even food police who ask “should you be eating that?” It challenges even the most skilled intuitive eaters among us. The Bill of Rights will come in handy.

  1. You have the right to savour your meal without cajoling or judgment, without discussion of calories eaten or the amount of exercise needed to burn off said calories.

This, like all the items on the Bill of Rights, would seem to go without saying. After all, we are adults. And adults get to choose their food, their portions, and the speed with which they eat it. If I want to savour a thing, I savour it. That is the whole point of festive foods! To be enjoyed. Enjoy!

2. You have the right to enjoy second servings without an apology.

No worries there in my family. We are big on second servings at family dinners all year round and I’m thankful for that. As an intuitive eater, knowing that a second portion awaits if I want it translates into taking a moderate first portion that allows me to check in with how I’m feeling and making an informed decision about whether I want more and what I want more of.

3. You have the right to honor your fullness, even if that means saying “no thank you” to dessert or a second helping of food.

You know that feeling of having had enough (or too much) and not having room for dessert. When the food is as delicious as it is this time of year, that can happen. Sometimes we deal with this in my family by making a group decision to have dessert later, when we are likely to enjoy it more because we have space. But regardless of what others are doing, I know that’s always an option for me. And though it is sometimes are to put off for later what everyone else is enjoying right now, it is really hard to truly enjoy, savour, and taste something when I’m already at 9/10 or 10/10 or 11/10 on the “fullness scale.” I would rather disappoint a “food pusher” (thankfully I don’t have any in my immediate family or circle) than stuff myself beyond what is comfortable.

4. It is not your responsibility to make someone happy by overeating, even if it took hours to prepare a special holiday dish.

We are all adults here. Food is a lot of people’s “love language,” but that doesn’t mean we have to eat when we don’t feel like it.

5. You have the right to say “no thank you,” without an explanation, when offered more food.

I see a recurring theme here — “no thank you” is good enough. Indeed, given how many people explain their “no thank you” by food-shaming themselves or moralizing their decision or literally talking about their weight or their diet, I wish more people would say “no thank you” without an explanation.

6. You have the right to stick to your original answer of “no” even if you are asked multiple times. Just repeat “No, thank you, really.”

Really! Usually I meant it the first time and I do not appreciate being cajoled.

7. You have the right to eat pumpkin pie for breakfast.

Or whenever. Or whatever.

What I like about this is that it dispels some myths about intuitive eating, which is that if we release ourselves from the “diet mentality food rules” we will eat all the time, and always be reaching for desserts. That hasn’t been the case for me, and it’s not the way it goes for most people who find that intuitive eating works for them (it’s not for everyone, and Sam has blogged about some of its shortcomings). It’s as much about knowing when to say “no,” based on what you feel like eating and your own inner fullness meter, as it is about knowing when to say “yes,” also based on what you feel like eating and your own inner fullness meter.

Another issue that comes up for me during the holidays, also related to intuitive eating, is that eating isn’t an act of defiance. If I approach the holiday spread with an “I’ll show you!” attitude, I am once again being motivated by external forces rather than internal guidance. Chances are, I will eat more than I want and will not pay any attention to what I actually feel like doing. I may also shame others who are holding back, not respecting their decisions (again, when others get into the calorie/diet/food moralizing explanations for their own choices it’s hard, but I try not to engage).

Since embracing intuitive eating, I approach the holidays with confidence, eager anticipation, and sincere gratitude for the privilege of abundance in my life — not just food, but also friends and family and opportunities to gather. But that doesn’t mean some of these situations aren’t fraught. The Intuitive Eating Bill of Rights is a great set of principles for navigating some of that fraught-ness.

Enjoy the festivities!


Riding with Friends in the Summer

This weekend some of the regular Fit is a Feminist Issue bloggers met up for some bike riding. It happened sort of by chance. Cate and Susan were about to go off on a canoe trip. They dragged Kim along and met up with Sarah and me. We were spending the weekend at Sarah’s family farm in Prince Edward County.

It was the same crowd that rode to Port Stanley a few years ago, plus Cate. You’re a wonderful addition Cate.

We all rode different distances. Cate, the completist, went for an even 100. Sarah and I ducked out early at 62 and hit the swimming pool and made plans for dinner. The middle group did 70 something. There was fresh corn and fish cooked on the BBQ, with strawberries, whipped cream and shortcake for dessert.

Other highlights?

Beautiful country roads

We got in a visit to my favorite bike shop in that neck of the woods, Bloomfield Bicycle Company. See the t-shirt below.

Oh and no weekend riding would be complete without being yelled at by a driver. She screamed, Share the road! I was puzzled. We were riding single file. Whatever. I decided to take it as a supportive call.

Oh and I had one spill. It wasn’t knee related except that I felt relieved that I could fall on that knee and not die. I was riding my skinny tired road bike over some grass and tried to continue onto a section of pavement. Sadly the grass dipped down before the pavement began and so did me and my bike. Slow speed but inevitable.

Lots of fun. We should definitely do this more often.


“And it’s not even close to exercise….”

Just last weekend, after a meeting of the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association, I did a bike tour of New Orleans with the Confederacy of Cruisers. It was a lot of fun. But I was amused by their slogan, and that it’s necessary. “Not even close to exercise!” Heaven forbid.

And it’s true that it wasn’t “exercise.” That’s a word I think we might need to stop using. (See Is it time to ditch exercise?) We covered 6 miles, very slowly with lots of stops, in 3 hours. But I’m not sure that I needed their reassurance.

I love bike tours as a way of seeing new places. In the past, I did two in Amsterdam with Mike’s Bike Tours. In both cities the fat tire bikes are good for avoiding tram tracks. Slow biking is also just about the right speed to see the neighbourhoods of a new city. Walking tends to take you along main roads, as the fastest way to get from place to place. Cars go too fast and you miss the feel of street life. But biking through neighbourhoods with locals on their bikes feels just about perfect to me. Both tours had great hosts who talked up a storm about the history and culture of the cities.

Here’s a brief blurb about the New Orleans tour, which I’d definitely recommend. And the picture to the right is of the cruisy style bikes we rode. Wide tires, step through frames, single speed, and coaster brakes. Fun.

“New Orleans is home to beautiful architecture and an incredibly colorful past, with a history and culture unrivaled in America. What makes it so interesting is that on every street the past is interwoven with the present; In the Marigny, you’ll bike past people walking their dogs on land that a plantation owner lost over a lifetime of craps games. Or, a few blocks away, you may get waved at by local folks sitting on porches next to bars that have been there for generations. The neighborhoods are filled with historic houses with all the beautiful archtiectural detail that comes from our Creole past. The neighborhoods are filled with restaurants; both decades old and newly renovated, parks, and monuments that hold amazing stories of the city’s past. We will bring you close up and into the heart of it all, and we’ll bike the way all of us locals do – on classic cruisers with overstuffed spring seats and upright handlebars, no multiple speed bikes here…we only have one: casual.

Starting down-river from the French Quarter, we will cruise the narrow streets touring the Faubourg Marigny and the Bywater,  early 19th century New Orleans suburbs. Originally home to the Creoles and Free People of Color, and later the Irish and Italians, this neighborhood now belongs to the art galleries and musicians, although the bars haven’t changed through all of that. The decorative facades of traditional shotgun houses and corner stores set the perfect backdrop to begin our journey. Continuing, we wind our way along the oak-lined beauty of Esplanade Avenue, peddling past antebellum mansions towards the Treme, home of the largest settlement of Free People of Color in the pre-Civil War era, today still the residence of traditional brass bands and social clubs.

Sound good?  Well, that is only a small taste of what we may share: local heroes like Ernie K Doe; the musical culture of the Treme and  neighborhood parades and Jazz funerals that fill our streets will be explained.  Local sights and oddities will be seen and plenty of stories will be shared. There is so much to see in New Orleans, and we customize each tour on the spot based on your mood, your interests and questions, the weather, even if you are in the mood for a Bloody Mary, or Abita beer at one of our many neighborhood bars, we can make that happen; the tour is yours.  At the rest stop (conveniently located at a classic New Orleans neighborhood bar where you can cool off on hot days and warm up on the cold ones, the important subject of what and where to eat, drink, and see music will be covered as we make sure the time you spend after our ride is as good as the ride itself; we are New Orleans hosts, this is what makes us happy.  This sounds like a lot, and it is, but the neighborhoods are close and filled with sights. We promise, you will not be bored. And it’s not even close to exercise.

We only ride in small groups so you can truly see what you want, and we cover about 6 miles so we can take it easy with a chance to enjoy it all. See a house with intriguing architecture and a beautiful paint job that you want a picture of? Just say the word. Want a refreshing raspberry snowball to help beat the heat, that can be done, too. A cold Abita on a hot day. We hope to offer an opportunity for you to discover and enjoy New Orleans to its fullest. And when we’re done, you can return home finally knowing the difference between a Y’at and a Who Dat.

We supply the friendly guide, tuned-up bicycles, safety helmets for those who want them, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the colorful past of the Big Easy. We’ll even supply bottles of ice water…you needn’t bring anything but pedal power.”

cycling · family

Cycling holidays, Part 1: Rail trails

Some of my favorite holidays have involved bicycles. No surprise really. Riding a bike makes me happy. I feel like a kid again. Zoom! Whee!

As summer starts to seem like a possibility again–days are getting longer, sun is getting stronger–I’m starting to think about some of my favourite vacations. Rail trail cycling holidays are fun, affordable, family and beginner friendly. I highly recommend them.

We’ve done four rail trail holidays, unsupported, where we carried our own stuff. Two of them were in Quebec on the Petit Train de Nord, a 200 km rail trail through Quebec ski country. Families used to take the train from Montreal up north to the ski hills but no more. Now people drive and the railway was abandoned. It’s been remade into a terrific cycling/cross country ski trail through some lovely little towns and beautiful countryside. The third was in New Zealand on the Otago Central Rail Trail. And when the kids were younger we mucked about for a few days–no big distances–on the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail in North East Victoria region of Australia. Each trip took three-four days.

These were perfect holidays. Easily affordable, just a very minimal fee to register on the trail, and in Quebec the camping option was easy. These aren’t bike trips you do for speed or big distances.  Riding on the trails away from cars is very safe and relaxing. There were lots of families doing the trail both in Quebec and in NZ.  And in Quebec there’s no shortage of ice cream, coffee, and beer (if that’s your thing) along the way. They’ve remade the train stations into little depots that offer services to cyclists and cross country skiers. Some even have bike shops. In NZ the trail was tough enough that you really needed a fat tire bike but I happily did the Quebec trail on my cyclocross bike and the sections closer to the city are paved.

Also, note to others, rail trails are pretty flat. The steepest grade is the grade a train can manage which, after all that coffee and ice cream, thankfully isn’t much. So there are some long slow climbs (you know the sort where, if you’re not thinking about it you wonder why you’re going so slow) but no real hills. Also, there are tour companies both in NZ and in Quebec that provide bike transport to the end of the trail so you can ride in one direction only. Again, that makes the distances more manageable if you’re doing it with kids and/or beginners and you want to see the whole trail.

I’ve also done some longer bike trips, organized by tour companies, without children along, with different degrees of luxury and comfort and I’ll post about those another time.

I’d love to do more of these short trips but there aren’t any converted rail trails here in Ontario and the camping options are often too far apart. I’ve heard Manitoulin Island is an easy place to do a self supported bike tour. That might be next for my daughter and me.

I’m happy camping or staying in bed and breakfasts. Have you had any short bike holidays you’ve organized yourself? Let me know how they went…