Catherine Ford Gets Personal

One year: A challenge for change


with 4 comments

It all started with a $2 Thighmaster, a newspaper advertisement and a looming birthday.

Call it a cosmic intersection. Better still, call this a new year’s resolution, for as most of us realize, it isn’t January 1 that marks the beginning of a “real” new year, it’s the arrival of September, the opening of the school year and the turning of the leaves. Regardless of the weather, it’s fall, it’s a new year, and I have only one year to achieve something I’ve never tried before, or never tried before in public — the challenge for change.

For my entire 40-year career as a journalist, others’ lives were open to my inspection and interpretation. Now I’m going to try – with your help, should you choose – to turn the tables on myself.
This blog will be intensely personal, but I hope not exclusive.

My goals are simple: To spend the next year, until October, 2010, trying to reconcile the 65-year-od body with the 18-year-old who still looks out through my eyes, amazed at what she sees. When did my skin forget where it belonged? Who owns that turkey neck? Where did that cellulite come from? And, most importantly, why on earth does any of this matter?

Why should I even care? It is certainly not that I am a senior cougar competing with other women for the attention of a dwindling number of men our own age. Like many happily married women, I am blessed with a husband who has selective sight: the woman he sees is the woman he fell in love with years ago. Occasionally, he’ll notice a new hairstyle, or a new outfit, but his love isn’t based on my appearance, but on the person inside. All of us should be that lucky.

The second-wave feminism that characterized my path through my entire career in newspapers — a feminism I am still proud to wear — told us that what really mattered was a woman’s interior beauty. I have no problem with that. What I do have difficulty with is accepting there is nothing I can do about the wrapping.

I’ll never know the answer to that until I try.

So, when I encountered a bright pink Thighmaster this past summer, at a thrift shop for $2 – GST not included – I snapped it up. It has now sat unused in the kitchen broom closet for a month.

My treadmill gathers dust in the downstairs office.

Meanwhile, last week brought full-page advertisements in the Calgary Herald for a brand-new so-called Health Club sponsored by the paper. And, while my previous employer (I retired early, in 2004) is seeking entrants for a “win your own team of mean personal health experts,” readers are being encouraged to join in when the fitness regimen begins Oct. 1.

The three daily newspapers coming into our house each day (the Herald, the National Post and the Globe and Mail) all feature daily horoscopes and all last week there were exhortations for Libra to get up, get out and make changes, or words to that effect.

If one believed in the stars, the message was becoming clear. It’s not that I hadn’t been aware of the fact that my waist had somehow disappeared when I wasn’t paying it any attention, but I just hadn’t gotten around to worrying about it. That was until I tried to do up the waistband of a couple of pairs of shorts only to discover that everything had shifted in the wrong direction. Gravity wasn’t doing me any favours.

But the most embarrassing part of not being in shape — literally or figuratively — is the realization that I cannot walk more than nine holes on a golf course without being exhausted, and this summer, when the temperature went above +25C, I couldn’t do that, either,

Why should any of this be interesting to anyone else? Simple: I’m part of the pre-Baby Boomer wave. Born in 1944, part of the cohort of war babies, I turn 65 this October. There are a lot of us out there and many, many more to come.

In their definitive 1996 demographic study, Boom Bust & Echo, David Foot with Daniel Stoffman described those born from 1940 to 1946 as not having as much “peer-group competition as those born in the following decade.” We numbered 2.2 million in 1996 and, write Foot and Stoffman, we’ve done extremely well. By comparison, like the pig passing through the python (the words of author Landon Y. Jones) there were 9.8 million Baby Boomers in 1996 and as they age, they will follow me into the ranks of being senior citizens starting two years from now.

My goals are not outrageous. I do not expect to be 30 or 40 again. I do not expect to look 30 or 40, merely to be as healthy and fit as possible as I enter a new phase of my life. I won’t be alone: men and women my age now expect to remain vigorous and useful long past the traditional retirement age. Indeed, we are expected to stay vital.

To that end, I will chart my progress throughout the year.

Next: How I spent my summer vacation eating my way up to this.


Written by Catherine Ford

September 8, 2009 at 11:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. Bravo Catherine. You know I can totally relate to your life long struggle. Maybe god gave us a weight problem to prevent us from being too darn perfect!


    September 19, 2009 at 4:22 pm

  2. I learned today of your blog from Robyn Blumner’s column. Your plight sounds a lot like one I tried last year. You don’t want to know how that turned out! Anyway – I’m looking forward to reading more and cheering you on! You Go Girl!

    Nancy Eaton

    November 8, 2009 at 6:16 am

  3. I too began reading your blog after reading Robyn Blumners column on November 8th. I just came home from seeing Julie and Julia and thought that I should let you know that you do have a additional follower least you get discouraged.

    Cheering you on!


    November 27, 2009 at 9:44 pm

  4. Dear Ms. Ford

    We run your Troy Media column. This weekend’s edition was a gob smacker, so I penned a response. You can find it here:

    BTW, I’m a fan.


    Markham Hislop

    September 26, 2010 at 11:46 am

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