B.A. Dobson


40 is the new 40

This article was previously published on January 4, 2012.

I’m on the cusp of my 40th birthday and I’m excited. Not that anybody believes me when I say it. In fact, every time I gleefully sing: “I’m turning 40, I’m turning 40! Hooray I’m going to be old!” at anyone within earshot lately (silly I know, but please note I never claimed not to be) and I gear up to start my happiness dance, someone always chimes in with…

“Well not to worry, you look so young. No one would ever guess you’re anywhere near to 40.”


“Old? Forty is the new 20/30? You’re sooo not old.”

Generally, I ignore such comments and just carry on singing. Moreover, the seemingly knee jerk response to console me every time I mention that I’m about to hit the BIG Four-O, only serves to make me want to declare it even more loudly to more people.

You see, I don’t ever want to get to a place where I’m mourning the fact that I’m getting older. I’ve always thought it best to accept what I can and cannot change in life. So, from time to time I may allow myself to bitch and moan about my weight, my finances, and/or the men I choose to date. But even though my knees have started to creak, the bouts of lower back pain I occasionally have to deal with now last a little longer, and certain parts of my body simply aren’t as perky as they used to be, I never complain about getting older.

I figured out a long time ago that I could choose to focus on the down or upside of the aging process, and being an optimist, I chose the upside. And just what is the upside of getting old? Well, I’d say evolving into someone who is more self-aware, being increasingly comfortable in my own skin, and learning to be true to myself in all circumstances (even stressful ones). In essence, with each passing year I am becoming a better and more grounded human being: a person my more nubile, 20-year old self would hardly recognize, much less claim to be.

That’s why, in spite of all the well-intentioned folk who attempt to ‘make me feel better’ about my pending birthday by telling me just how young  I look (according to them, because what does 40 look like anyway?) or am in spirit, I refuse to shy away from telling people my age, or celebrating the fact that with each passing year I learn more about myself and the world around me.

Yes, in just a few short days I’ll be turning 40. But I won’t be the 40-something striving to be 20 or 30 with a decade or two of experience. Nope, not me. Instead I plan to revel in the JOY of actually being 40 – nothing more, nothing less. My 40 is simply going to be the new 40 and as hard as it may be for some to believe, that’s a-ok with me.

Follow B.A. Dobson on Twitter at @BA_Dobson.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

7 tips to boost your fitness motivation

By far and away the hardest part of starting and sticking with an exercise program is maintaining your motivation over the long haul. Even the most committed of gym room junkies have days when they don’t feel like working out. So what’s a girl to do when her motivation to exercise starts to wane?

1. Get Clear About Your Reasons for Exercising

List all the reasons why you want to exercise. First, cover the basics, like having a healthy heart and being stronger. Then, dig a little deeper. Jot down all the reasons that stir your emotions, things like feeling beautiful or sexy; having more energy to play with your kids; or feeling good about your body when you look in the mirror. Once you’re sure that you’ve written all the reasons you could think of, post your list in a place where you’ll see it every day. Your bathroom mirror or night table are both good options.

2. Set SMART Goals

Setting clear fitness goals is a great way to ramp up your motivation. Looking to improve your cardiovascular fitness? Then register for a 5k run/walk. Want to improve your upper body strength? Set a target number of push-ups you’ll be able to perform by a certain date. Trying to lose weight? Purchase a goal dress one or two sizes too small for an upcoming special occasion. Finally remember, your goals should always be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based.

3. Keep A Daily Fitness Journal

Documenting your feelings and thoughts about each workout in a journal can be a great source of inspiration on days when you’re feeling sluggish. Being able to look back and see how far you’ve come may just be the kick you need when you feel like giving up. So, if you don’t already have a journal, get one. FACT: People who journal about their workouts are more likely to achieve their fitness goals.

4. Exercise First Thing in the Morning

By working out soon after you rise, you’ll start your day with an energy boost and a feeling of accomplishment, long before most people have had their morning coffee. And, as an added bonus, you’ll have the rest of the day to tackle all your other responsibilities. Besides, people who make a habit of exercising at the start of their day are less likely to skip their workouts. After all, it’s unlikely your friends, coworkers or relatives will call you to chat or invite you out as you’re rolling out of bed at the crack of dawn, right?

5. Consider Your Workout as YOU Time.

Most women, spend so much time taking care of others (their partner, kids, parents, etc.) that they often tend to neglect their own self care. But let’s face it ladies, if you aren’t in good health you won’t be able to care for your loved ones, right? So, think of your exercise time as your chance to make you and your health a priority. Choose an activity you really enjoy to ensure your workout is really all about you. Then, schedule a time slot for your workout in your appointment calendar – just as you would for any other appointment. Finally, make the commitment; never let yourself down (or your body) by skipping your exercise session.

6. Reward Yourself for Successes.

If you’ve dropped those first 10 pounds, shaved minutes of your 10k time, or stuck to your plan of hitting the gym five days/week, it’s time to reward yourself. So, indulge. Go out and buy a new pair of shoes, that piece of jewellery you’ve had your eye on for months, or even a new pair of skinny jeans to celebrate the thinner, sexier you. Or better still, pamper yourself with a day at the spa for a massage and facial. Rewarding yourself as you make progress towards your goals will go a long way to keeping you motivated. But don’t succumb to temptation – avoid treating yourself with sweet or fatty foods.

7. Recruit an Accountability Partner.

If you feel like you’re losing your mojo perhaps you should consider recruiting an accountability partner. Among your co-workers, neighbours, family and friends, there are bound to be people (at least one) you can count on to help you keep your word when you commit to exercising. Can’t think of anyone you can connect with to workout with on a regular basis? Hire a personal trainer. Knowing your trainer is at the gym waiting to put you through your paces will make it much harder to blow off workouts. Can’t afford a trainer? Then sign up for a class or start going to the gym at the same time every day. Eventually, the people there will get to know you and start expecting you to show up. You’ll be amazed at how having that sense of community and knowing you’ll be missed will have you dragging your butt out the door.

And one final note ladies. Remember: Stay active and keep motivated!


Talk to your kids about sex because they know more than you think

Have you heard about the “What Would Your Mother Do?” underwear, a line of T-shirts and boy shorts that features slogan like “Zip It,” “Dream On,” and “Not Tonight”? According to the brand’s creators their “conversation underwear” will “empower” girls to “make good, informed decisions” about sex (although there is no mention of that rather “dangerous” word on the site) that are theirs and theirs alone. The only good and informed choice being not to have sex – of course.

Now while the idea of underwear with cute pro-abstinence slogans preventing teen sex is laughable (as one would assume that by the time young people weighing the option to have sex get down to their underpants it’s game on, right?), the lack of comprehensive sex education for kids who live in a culture steeped in sex and all the pleasures it brings is not. Though Canadians don’t seem to be as intent on the promotion of abstinence-only education as our neighbours to the south (where the funding of abstinence only sex ed programs jumped from $9 million to $176 million between 1997 and 2007), the derailment of the proposed changes to Ontario’s sex ed curriculum in 2010 is indicative of a loud, highly conservative and very vocal minority (I hope) who would support the same kind of focus here. A fact that is worrying, if only to left leaning folks like me.

Hardcore porn has become by default the sex education of today. – Cindy Gallop

A 2009 study by the security firm Symantec found that the fourth most-searched term among kids aged eight to eighteen – after Facebook, YouTube and Google – was SEX. For kids seven and under it was PORN. – Mashable

You see, kids, whether their parents readily admit it or not, are generally very interested in learning about sex and exploring their own sexuality (I know I was when I was a kid). And in the absence of access to clear, comprehensive education about such matters – at school or at home – curious kids will find their own way. Unfortunately from what I remember of my own childhood, as well as what I glean from my limited interactions with young people today, kids are finding their own way often involves perusing porn on the Internet (which overtime may lead to them developing a skewed view of what real life sex is like); seeking advice from their equally ill-informed peers; or worse yet, picking up tips from someone older and “wiser” than they, who may not have the most altruistic agenda – if you know what I mean. So, is it wise for parents, teachers or any other adults else genuinely concerned with the well being of the children in their lives to avoid open dialogue about sex due to embarrassment, awkwardness or fear? I think not.

Instead of telling kids to just say no, deflecting their questions about sex and/or buying them modern-day chastity belts in the form of boy shorts emblazoned with anti-sex messaging, the grown-ups in their lives would do well to provide them with accurate and age-appropriate information about sex when they indicate that they are interested and ready to receive it. Because with or without the help or influence of the adults who care about them most, kids will always find a way to see and learn about sex. Just as most adults, including myself did (long before the advent of the Internet I might add) when they were kids.

This article was previously published on December 14, 2011.

Follow B. A. on Twitter at @BA_Dobson.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Love your heart

By B.A. Dobson

Heart Health Awareness month is just aaround the corner, and ladies, we need to be paying attention. You see, the facts are…

  • Heart disease and stroke is the leading cause of death among Canadian women.
  • Women are more likely than men to die of a heart attack or stroke.
  • Women are 10X more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than from any other disease.
  • Despite all the media and public focus on breast cancer, women are six times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
  • One in eight women between the ages of 45-64 lives with cardiovascular disease.
  • Cardiovascular disease kills more women aged 65 and older than allcancers combined.

But the good news is that you have the power to prevent and/or greatly reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by taking the following steps to protect your heart health.

Get Up Close and Personal With Your numbers: Being aware of your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are important. Normal blood pressure ranges between 120/80 to 130/85, while your total blood cholesterol (TBD) count should be 5.2 or less. Also, be sure to ask your doctor to measure both your LDL (“bad”) and HDL (“good”) cholesterol, the ratio of these to your TBD, and your triglyceride levels, with a fasting blood test.

Pass on the Smokes: Did you know that smoking as few as four cigarettes/day makes you seven times more likely to develop heart disease? If you smoke, quitting is the single most important thing you can do to decrease your risk of heart disease. Not starting is even better.

Limit Your Alcohol Intake: When it comes to alcohol and heart health, if you don’t drink, don’t start, and if you do indulge, keep your intake at a moderate level. For women, one drink/day or less is recommended (FYI: ‘one drink’ = one beer, a 5 oz. glass of wine or 1.5 oz. of liquor).

Just De-Stress: In today’s society, the demands of work and family life mean that many women are hustling through life at a frenzied and highly stressful pace. But too much negative stress (i.e. the distress you may feel when the demands of life seem greater than your ability to cope with them) can increase your blood pressure, feelings of anxiety, and also result in you having a very short fuse. So, do your best to infuse some mind-clearing R ’n’ R (e.g. meditation, yoga or a meandering stroll through a park) into your day to keep yourself on an even keel.

Maintain a Healthy Body Weight: Being overweight significantly increases your chances of developing heart disease. Choosing to eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet (one that is high in complex carbohydrates, fibre, leaner meats and foods prepared with little to no fat or sodium) and engaging in 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week will go a long way to keep your body lean and your heart healthy.

Menocracies misrepresent women — Part 1

I recently had the opportunity to view screener copies of Miss Representation, a documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and Menocracy, directed by Gretchen Kelbaugh.Miss Representation explored the idea that “the media’s misrepresentation of women has led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence”, andMenocracy highlighted the need for, benefit of, and necessary steps to attain gender equality within the governments of western society.

Although both films reiterated many things I already knew about the realities of being a woman in the western world, they were still highly impactful reminders that as far as we’ve come, based on the way our culture views women and girls, there is still much work to be done to achieve any semblance of equality between the men and women in our society. Of course, that begs the question, just how is the female half of our society viewed?

Well, as Miss Representation brings to light, a woman’s value and worth in society is still most often and consistently determined by the way she looks. It’s a long standing cultural perception that keeps women – myself included – spending much of their time, energy, and financial resources on trying to conform to the completely unattainable beauty standard propagated by the media. The ramifications of which were made immediately clear by the following facts offered up in the film:

The media generates most of its revenue from advertising and generally, to drive more advertising sales, the same female body type is depicted time and again. This means women and young girls (FYI: the average teenager consumes 10 hours and 45 minutes of media per day) get the same message –  you’re not beautiful enough – 24/7.

The result?

·         53% of 13 year old  girls and 78% of 17 year old counterparts are unhappy with their bodies

·         65 % of women and girls have an eating disorder

·         17% of teenagers engage in cutting and self-injurious behaviour

·         Rate of depression in girls and woman doubled between 2000 and 2010

·         In the US alone, women spend $12,000 – $15,000 per year on beauty products and salon services, and between 1997 and 2007 the number of cosmetic surgeries on girls under 19 tripled

You can’t be what you can’t see – Marian Wright Edelman

What’s more, with the exception of images of young, thin, and sexually available females, women and girls are “symbolically annihilated” in the media, with an average of only 20% of all news stories covering women and girls. The fact is, because men still dominate the media, women and girls are chronically misrepresented, which holds all females back in insidious ways – particularly when it comes to attaining political power.

As Newsom makes abundantly clear in Miss Representation, the media’s treatment of power significantly influences how power is viewed by society, and the more power women gain, the stronger the media backlash against them. Females in leadership roles are generally: 1) trivialised by the media’s focus on how they look; 2) twice as likely to be painted emotionally as men are; and 3) cast as bitchy (i.e. Hilary Clinton) or pornified and ‘dizzified’ (i.e. Sarah Palin), while their credentials are constantly critiqued. By depicting women and girls as less competent and/or more sexualized than they truly are, the media dehumanizes, and more importantly disempowers women as they challenge the male dominated status quo.

Despite this, as director Gretchen Kelbaugh, demonstrates in her film Menocracy, it is of the utmost importance that women continue to challenge male power – especially in the political realm.

More on women, power, and the film Menocracy to come in part 2 of this post.