Catherine Ford Gets Personal

One year: A challenge for change


with 3 comments

Amazing what one learns in the mountains. The Pope is Catholic but the bear does not shit in the woods.

It does its business in the middle of our driveway. That fact is enough to stop me from nature/fitness walks in what people call God’s Country.

I would be content to spend my time in the mountains sitting on the deck, reading the newspapers and struggling with the National Post’s diabolical sudoku and the Globe and Mail’s Saturday cryptic crossword puzzle.

Up to now that has been the rhythm of time in the mountains, punctuated by looking up at the surrounding Rockies and dodging the ground squirrels’ frantic tossing of cones onto the deck from the large spruce trees surrounding the house. Our presence here on the weekends interrupts their hoarding and eating activities. We prevent them from using the deck railings as their table.

Winter is coming and if the activities of the local wildlife doesn’t prove that, the chilly nights do.

Bears are in their final stage of fattening up for a long winter’s hibernation and they haunt the riverbanks and snuffle into the berry-bearing bushes. Who knew our driveway was masquerading as the Ladies’? Or maybe the Gents’. One can’t determine the gender of the bear from its scat.

I ask you – would you be willing to go out in the chilly morning air for a brisk two-mile hike past the yellow sign with large black lettering: Caution: Bear In Area.

I thought not.

There are fewer if any natural settings to compete with the Bow Valley as one drives through it from Calgary to Banff. It rises from a sprawling jungle of single-family houses cocooning a city of one million people, through foothills bisected by the Trans-Canada Highway and protected from predation by developers because it is First Nations’ land, to the jewel of Canada’s national parks, so-called because it was the first, not because it is a diamond. Let’s say that the town of Banff, nestled among five identifiable mountains — Norquay, Cascade, Sulphur, Tunnel and Rundle — is more the grit in the oyster than the precious pearl. Sadly, but profitably, Banff is a small mountain town that has been smothered by tourist love and turned into a polyglot jungle of tourist traps and overpriced stores. This may explain why we spend our time in Canmore, just outside the park gates, raher than in Banff.

In Banff, one is more likely to meet an elk than a bear. Around Canmore, when one sees a large yellow sign — Bear In Area — and when one is a fitness avoider, that’s as good an excuse as any to avoid walking through the woods and down to the river as any.

Not that I’ve ever met a bear face to face. But better safe than sorry, right? Then there was the scat on the gravel driveway at our second home in the mountains. How large was the deposit? Only slightly smaller than one of those squishy, messy and familiar cow patties. And the deposit was only smaller because it was firmer.

I never presumed that once I announced my intention to spend the next year trying to get fit and healthy that the first challenge would be avoiding wildlife.

It’s not that I don’t have fit people I admire to emulate. There’s my neighbour, the amazing Charlene Prickett, whose television show — It Figures — has encouraged generations of couch potatoes since 1976 to get up and get moving. Then there’s my friend Eva Newman whose idea of a fun afternoon is to hike up a mountain. Both Charlene and Eva, slender, taut and with upper arms the envy of women half their age are in their 60s. I have no excuse.

Still, I’m not holding my breath about outfits without sleeves. That might be too much to hope for without the aid of extensive plastic surgery and maybe a lobotomy. The latter operation would be necessary to remove from my childhood memories the voices of a phalanx of Ursuline nuns who decreed that the sight of a girl’s underarm flesh was enough to inflame the passions of passing men. It was, they would say in sonorous tones, An Occasion Of Sin.

To achieve my goal in one year may require more energy and commitment than is possible but it’s worth a try and I can dream.

Would walking around the deck qualify as exercise? Running up and down two sets of stairs would, but just thinking about that leads me to lie down with a cool cloth on my head.

Of course, there is a set of five-pound dumbbells in the basement of the cabin. Just because the treadmill and the dreaded Thighmaster is in Calgary is no excuse.

Maybe tomorrow.

These two words might explain more than anything else why I am in this dilemma as I face my 65th birthday. It has always been easier to avoid exercise than to do it. And even when I’ve been “good” it is still easier not to get out of bed in time to get in some sweat equity.

Full-time work was an excuse before I retired five years ago. Now there isn’t one, except as any retired person will tell you, retirement means more work, not less. The excuse of being “too busy at work” to accept a volunteer position or charity work no longer exists. And while my husband says I waste hours on the computer paying solitaire and thus have no excuse for not taking on some activity or another, the real truth is that there is always time to get in shape, to make those small changes that are necessary.

One really only needs the will. So this morning I took the stairs at the Banff Springs Hotel. Only one flight, but it’s a start, isn’t it?

And before we headed to a convention in Banff, I did spend three days in a row walking on my treadmill. A start, that’s all I promised myself. Forty-five minutes at a whack, until sweat took all the curl out of my hair. Not quite three miles (treadmill manufactured for Americans, hence the miles instead of kilometers). A “saving” of about 400 calories, or the equivalent of a small piece of lemon meringue pie or a normal serving of ice cream. (Who ever serves herself the half-cup which the ice-cream manufacturers say is a serving?) Who are they kidding?

Try the entire half-liter carton which should clock in at about a gazillion calories, all of which will flow right through your body if you eat the ice cream – French vanilla mixed with a dollop of peanut butter – standing at the kitchen sink. Well, that’s what I‘ve been told. It’s the same with cookies, isn’t it? If you break the chocolate chip cookie in half, all of the calories have been broken and have fallen out, right?

Much of this may explain why I have battled with my weight all of my life, either in reality or in my mind.

On at least four separate occasions in my lifetime, I’ve lost an average of 50 pounds. Even the innumerate can add that up to represent a 200-pound man.

Every single time but this one, I’ve gained it all back and then some. How does an intelligent person do that? How do you ignore the obvious until one morning you wake up and you’re 60 pounds heavier?

My first diet was at age 10, and I hope the doctor who told my mother to put me on a diet is roasting in hell. If you want to mess with a kid’s self-esteem, just pronounce her “fat” and make her deny herself when she should be learning the value of good food, not the side effects of eating too much of it.

Next: Every single diet in the world works, no matter how strange or dangerous.


Written by Catherine Ford

September 14, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. My husband just thought about starting a fitness regime, and he lost 5 pounds. When he actually started to work out, the pounds starting to magically drip away. When I started Weight Watchers, I gained four pounds the first week before I started to see the scale go the other way. Where is the justice? Oh, to have a male’s metabolism without having to give up my female brain…. Ta


    September 16, 2009 at 9:17 am

  2. I was telling my doctor that I wanted to lose a few pounds and he told me to just eat less. Put less on your plate and eat the same things you normally do. If you cut out 200 calories a day, that’s about a pound a month. You can live with this.


    September 19, 2009 at 3:01 pm

  3. Speaking of bears and exercise- I head back to work in a about a month- exploration/prospecting for Cu/Mo- hiking all day, in central BC, and that still worries me- the bears. Oh well….it is good for losing weight- I’m away from food all day.


    September 19, 2009 at 6:28 pm

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