Book Review: “You Just Need to Lose Weight”: And 19 Other Myths About Fat People, Aubrey Gordon

“‘You Just Need to Lose Weight’: And 19 Other Myths About Fat People” by Aubrey Gordon is a short reference book that discusses 20 common myths and misconceptions about fatness in an attempt to equip the reader with facts, talking points and things to consider when addressing anti-fat bias (aka fatphobia).

As a long time listener and supporter of “Maintenance Phase“, Gordon’s excellent wellness and weight loss debunking podcast with Michael Hobbes (of “You’re Wrong About” fame) very little in this book was new to me. It was a distillation of many of the ideas and topics discussed in the podcast, formed into a book that is specifically meant to be a teaching aid of sorts. It is also much more of a “call to action” book than Gordon’s previous book, “What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat”.

If you haven’t listened to “Maintenance Phase” I highly recommend it. You can either start with the first episode here, or jump in with one of their best episodes, on Goop. If you are looking to get into Gordon’s writing, I recommend reading “What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat”. It’s much more of a reading book than a reference book. Once you’ve read that, there’s a good chance that you’ll want to keep a copy of “You Just Need to Lose Weight” around, if only to squelch tiresome Karens who tell people that “you just need to lose weight, it’s for your own good, I’m just concerned about your health”.

On a more personal note, just to highlight why I find this topic personally important (beyond me wanting to be a better, more accepting person in a better, and more accepting world):

My mother was misdiagnosed by a whole phalanx of very good doctors because all they could see is a fat person standing before them. They ignored her blood work, they ignored her biopsy, they ignored her medical history and our family’s rich and varied history with blood cancers. She nearly died because of their insistence that her problem was that she is fat. Well, she is fat, but her problem was that she had two types of blood cancer and one of them was going for her liver. The only two doctors that actually gave her a proper diagnosis were a resident that didn’t even see my mother (she just looked at the actual tests and you know, read them), and a liver doctor who is himself fat.

Bias kills. Learning about it is a moral duty, regardless of whether the bias is tied to race, gender, gender expression, size, age, disability, social class or anything else. It literally kills.

What I’m Using: Field Notes Heavy Duty

Field Notes Heavy Duty started out as a limited edition product and I believe is now part of their lineup (these posts are quick and dirty ones, so google things if you’re interested. The point of this exercise is to write these without pausing to search for things). I didn’t use them at all at first, but lately they have become my scratchpad of choice. I have a pair currently in use, and I throw whatever I need to remember into them, plus little things that I need to work out, notes that I take during phone calls, etc. Things then get processed from there, or just torn off and chucked away. Aaron Draplin would approve.

These take pretty much any kind of pen that you can throw at them and are decent enough even with fountain pens.

Pro tip: feel free to ignore the ruling and use them landscape style. This goes for any portrait oriented writing pad.

Weekly Update: Dungeon World and Urban Sketchers

It’s been a busy past two weeks.

Unreal sunset yesterday

I ran my first tabletop roleplaying convention game for a group of strangers and it went great. It was an evening convention for “oldies” – players over 30 years old – run entirely by volunteers, and the vibe was wonderful. There was tea and biscuits, as befitting people our age, and about 8 tables running games in two rounds. I ran a Dungeon World game on the first round to three delightful and creative people, and we all had a great time. The game itself ran for three hours, including an half-hour general intro and intro to the system. It took me something like six hours to write the adventure from scratch, create the pre-made characters and write an intro to the system and to the game. I also did a test run of the game before the convention, and it helped me tweak the game and make it much better.
I got to experience a great story and have a really fun time with a group of funny and nice people, and I got to get someone who hasn’t played since he was a teenager back into the hobby. I will probably be running another convention game in the future, maybe even later this year.

Game table setup just before we started.

I’ve also launched the first D&D campaign I’ve written in years. It’s set in a new campaign setting that I’ve created (also something I have done in well over a decade) and it’s the most complex kind of campaign with the most players that I have ever run. Set in a university like setting that is functioning at the brink of an all out war, the students are called to fill in for the ever dwindling university staff while still trying to study for their degrees. The game is set in short adventures running two or three sessions, with a changing cast of characters, and is built for busy people who can’t commit for a years long campaign. Some of the play is done via a telegram group, and there’s a growing campaign site in obsidian portal, which works to keep the play alive from session to session. The logistics of it is monstrous, but so far people appear to be having fun and I’m enjoying myself, so all is well in the world.

I’ve finished January having read four books (two Agatha Christies, “You Just Need to Lose Weight” by Aubrey Gordon, and “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” by Winifred Watson). I’ll be posting reviews of the latter two books later on this week probably. Meanwhile, I’ve started reading the deliciously delightful “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles after having eyed it for a long time. I’ve decided to read all of the 20-something e-books that I have languishing in my Kindle instead of going for this year’s Tournament of Books.

Urban Sketches from our sketchwalk

I went on my first Urban Sketchers sketchwalk in a good long while, and while my hands aren’t what they used to be and I took time to warm up as I hadn’t drawn for a while, I still got a few good sketches out of the three hours we had, and I enjoyed myself. You can read more about it here.

It’s finally decided to winter here, so I’ve been forced to run on a treadmill and I’ve gotten back to doing NTC training sessions. NTC have added whiteboard workouts, which are a challenge (to say the least), and treadmill running is still heinous, but at least I get to do some speedwork (also heinous) while I’m doing it, thus killing two birds with the proverbial stone.

There have been a lot of good Lego deals here lately, so I really need to start building some of the sets that I have before I’ll drown in boxes (and then think about what to do with them once I’ve finished building them, of course). There’s something meditative about building Legos. I started to get back to them once I was in my month in and out of hospital waiting for my cancer diagnosis to be finalized, and the Legos today aren’t those that I had as a child. They are much more sophisticated, interesting, and creative than those that we had as children, and I can lose myself in a set just like I can lose myself in a good book.

Even the small sets are fun.

As for the fountain pen countdown, I’m down to 28 inked pens now, likely down to 27 by the end of today.

Quick sketch of a friend’s dog with a Parker 51 on Hahnemule Cappuccino paper.

Have a great week!

Urban Sketchers Tel Aviv: Atarim Square

Last Friday there was an Urban Sketchers Tel Aviv sketchwalk to Atarim Square, which is right near the beach. The weather was scorching hot for this season, and I hadn’t planned for it (no hat, no sunscreen) so I worked as quickly as possible on this first sketch and then looked for subjects that I could sketch from the shade.

Sketch of the Tel Aviv Marina beach.

There were a lot of boats out and the sea was unbelievably blue and clear. You can see the rocks that make this beach not a bathing beach.

It was noon, which meant that there were very few places in the shade. I found one next to a playground and made a quick sketch of part of the scene there, making sure to obscure the little girl’s face. There was a huge crow prancing around quite fearlessly.

I spent a lot of time looking for places to sketch in the shade, so I ended up having to sketch this scene very quickly (less than 15 minutes), take some reference photos and add the watercolour later. It’s the local bar and reception for the nearby hostel.

What I love about going to Urban Sketcher outings is seeing how everyone finds something different that catches their interest and is worth sketching in the same small area. Seeing all the different sketching styles is also a lot of fun.

Here’s the finished sketch of the bar/reception area from above. They have some wild graffiti on their walls, so this was really fun to paint.

Ghosts of Planners Past: Weekly Planners

As part of my struggles with planning, I’ve been reviewing the various planning systems I’ve used over the years and how they have changed. One of the most persistent of these has been the Weekly Planner.

Weekly planners generally take the form of a week on two pages, with the left page used for the actual weekly planner part and the right page used for notes. I’ve used Moleskine pocket weekly planners, I’ve used tiny weekly planners from Word Notebooks for two years (2016 and 2017), and I’ve used a large squared Moleskine notebook that I turned into a weekly planner myself. The format appeals to me, which is why I’ve had some form of a weekly planner with me for well over a decade.

The classic Moleskine weekly spread.

The pluses of the weekly format seem obvious: you can get an overview of your week at a glance without too much clutter. You can easily tell when you can block out time for things, and what is your general availability for the week. You can tell if it’s a “heavy” week or a “light” one and plan your projects accordingly, and you can schedule pre-work and prep for upcoming events. It’s the ultimate planner’s planning format.

The minuses are that you don’t have enough space to plan out the individual days, which usually necessitates a secondary planning system, and that if you live in a country that starts the week on Sunday and not on Monday (like I happen to), your choices in this category are few and hard to come by.

Yet if this format is so compelling, why did I stop keeping a dedicated weekly planner late last year?

The answer is that I wasn’t referencing it enough to justify lugging another notebook around. It was great to get a sense of the week to come as I was planning for it on Friday or Saturday, but once I finished the planning, I would reference it again maybe once or twice a week. That was just not good enough.

My solution for now is to use one of the “Stay on Target” notepads from The Well Appointed Desk‘s Etsy store to create a small weekly plan on one piece of paper that I can see at all times (I keep the pad propped up at my desk). It just has one or two major events for each day tops, and it helps me keep track of my long term goals on a weekly basis (running, blogging, sketching, reading, gym and NTC sessions, meditation sessions, vitamins and fountain pens written dry). Here’s a censored example of next week’s plan:


Like the rest of my planning, it’s messy, not Instagram ready and not festooned with calligraphy, but it’s mine and it’s useful. My handwriting these cold days is beyond appalling, but as I can barely feel my hands even as I laboriously type this out, it’s the best that I can do under the circumstances, and I understand what I’m writing so that’s good enough.

And that is the main takeaway from this entire series (there are a few more posts to come): find what works for you, and don’t create a system that makes you work for it.

Wrapping Some Books

I just finished wrapping some children’s books for my friends’ children and I really like what I got out of some brown wrapping paper and Posca paint markers.

The books are all by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre and they’re a delight that’s fun to read even as an adult (the mark of a good children’s book in my opinion).

Can you guess which book is under which wrapper?

Currently Inked: Things Are Getting Out of Hand

I just finished logging my currently inked pens on the wonderful fountain pen companion and I was a bit shocked to discover that I have 30 fountain pens inked up (each one with a different ink). This is of course the result of the Inkvent madness and my insistence on actually filling pens with the samples in the calendar instead of just using a dip pen.

I’ve written Solar Storm (day 4) dry and I’ve dumped Spruce (day 3) because of the smell, but I’ve kept Pick Me Up (day 15) despite the smell, because of the rich chocolate shade that it has. Since creating this list I’ve also written Jingle Berry (day 8) dry and Spiced Apple (day 5) is about to join it. I’m likely going to be forced to dump and clean out some of these pens, but my goal is to try and write and sketch as many of them as possible dry.

Weekly Update: Taking My Content Back

I have been thinking a lot lately about the content that I create and my ownership of it. It’s come as a result of the mess that is Twitter right now, the way that Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and their algorithms work, and yes, the mess that is D&D’s OGL 1.1 (and I have seen Wizards fold. It is the fact that they thought that could grab user created content so easily that makes me stop in my tracks).

Photo from today’s morning 10k

So as I’m still planning out my year (I’m struggling very much with planning ahead, as part of my PTSD, and it’s been getting worse, not better, over time. So if I manage to actually do any planning for the year ahead, it’s going to take a lot of time and a whole lot of intense effort), I started to consider if I really want to continue publishing things on these platforms.

I haven’t been using twitter for a long time, well before the Musk era. I just discovered that I don’t really need it as a source of news and noise any more, and the only thing I do there now is auto post links to my blog, and find relevant articles to read after hematology conventions, because the search option on ASH’s site is unhelpful.

As for the other social networks, I’ve already started to change my posting habits there. This year will just be me doubling down on the “my site comes first” principle. If it’s something that even remotely belongs on this site, then I’m going to post it here first, with cross posts elsewhere. Here I have an audience that is mine, that isn’t been manipulated by algorithms, and that I want to invest in.

The possibilities of a free deck, clear skies and perfect running weather.

One of the first changes I’m making is no longer posting reviews on Goodreads, but rather posting them here and linking to my blog from the Goodreads site. I have much better control of the format of the review, and I can cross link reviews and do more interesting things with them over time (I have a lot of ideas and not a lot of time).

That’s enough of that, here’s a bit more about the rest of my week:

Reading

I finished reading two Agatha Christie Poirot classics, The Murder on the Links, and Murder on the Orient Express (which I have read several times before and still find enjoyable). She is a master at her craft and it’s nearly impossible to put her books down, despite her more old school pacing.

I’m now reading Aubrey Gordon’s “You Just Need to Lose Weight” and it’s just as good as her wonderful Maintenance Phase podcast with Michael Hobbes.

I saw the Tournament of Books short list for 2023, and decided to opt out of it this year. There are a few books there that I’m interested in, but a few that I really don’t want to read, and so I won’t.

Journalling, Planning and Pens

My PTSD has been getting worse in one of its many manifestations (the others are under control for now). My brain refuses to acknowledge that there is a tomorrow to be had, and so I am allowed to plan for it. Where before I lived in bursts of two weeks (as that was my chemo regiment and that’s how my brain learned that I’m supposed to live), it now only allows me to envision my day a day or two in advance. I can put things on my calendar until the cows come home, but my brain refuses to acknowledge that they have anything to do with me, because who am I to assume that I’ll be alive next week? I know that it’s illogical, but that’s why it’s PTSD and not healthy brain function.

The realities of this are many, but one of the most pressing and annoying ones is that I can’t plan ahead. Planning used to be something I really enjoyed and excelled at, and now it’s something that I have largely lost access to. I am working on it, and as a part of working on it I decided to reflect on past planning systems that I’ve used, what worked and didn’t work in them, and what I can perhaps take from them for the future.

I’ve built a few quick lego sets lately, and the Vespa is one of my favourites among them.

I have changed my journalling notebook from a Moleskine to a Stalogy in an attempt to jump start my journalling post a lot of journalling inconsistency due to travel. It’s also going to allow me to use the very large amount of fountain pens (almost 30 I think) that I have inked up due to the madness that is my Diamine Inkvent reviews. I’ve only now started to log the inks and pens that I have in use in the Fountain Pen Companion, and I’m starting to clean out a few of them.

Have a great week, full of planning, journalling, reading and whatever brings you joy.

Ghosts of Planners Past: Chronodex

As I’ve been struggling with planning ever since I received a cancer diagnosis in mid 2021, I’ve been reflecting on the many planner systems that I’ve used over the years. Most of these systems didn’t stand the test of time for me, but I think that there’s still something to learn from their failure. So while I’m working out how planning looks like for the new, post-cancer treatment me, I thought that I would write down my reflections on each system that I have used.

Image by Patrick Ng from Scription

I love planning, I’ve always loved planning, and together with many analogue systems I have tried quite a few to do apps over the years. Analogue planning systems, while sometimes cumbersome, always worked better for me, which is why that’s what I’ll focus on in this short series of posts.

I first discovered Chronodex, Patrick Ng’s gorgeously visual planning system, when he first published it in late 2011. It immediately appealed to me because it was so visual, and I’m a visual thinker, and it was so very different from anything else that was going around in the planning world at the time. This was well before the days of various bullet journal tracking pages, in the heady days of GTD and the Fountain Pen Network. The Rhodia Webnotebook was new and exciting stuff, and the Traveler’s Notebook was all the rage.

Patrick’s Chronodex was meant to be printed at home, 6 months of planning pages at a time, and then folded and cut to size to fit a Traveler’s Notebook. I tried to do that at first, and failed miserably. Home printers are terrible, and the result was unusable and just a waste of a lot of paper and inkjet ink.

Since I still really wanted to give the system a try, I went to the office supply store next to my job and bought a circle template ruler. Using that, a Rhodia Webbie and a Pilot Hi Tec C Coleto I created hand drawn Chronodex pages for a few months. I was a team lead at the time, I was overwhelmed with work and meetings, and I thought that visual time blocking as offered by the Chronodex would be the solution.

I really insisted on getting the Chronodex system to work for me, because I was so aesthetically enamoured with it. I pushed it until it broke and then I kept dragging it on for weeks before I finally realised that it was time to move on. The Chronodex wasn’t for me.

The system works on time-blocking, as drawn on a circular 12 or 24 hour template that is supposed to mimic a watch face. If you are a visual thinker you will immediately see the appeal. If you like pretty planner pages, you will also love the Chronodex’s elegant beauty. But planning for me has first and foremost got to work on a practical level, and the system faired poorly there.

If you have relatively few things to do throughout the day, or if your day is already time blocked (i.e. you are a student or a teacher) then the Chronodex could work well for you.

If, on the other hand, you have a lot going on, or you tend to have to jump around between tasks, or if your days aren’t so easily well defined in time blocks, then the Chronodex is likely not for you. It becomes too cluttered to be readable if you try to splice your day into small time blocks, and if your day is fluid and not well defined in advance, you aren’t going to be able to to time block it until you start to actually do the thing. The Chronodex isn’t a Pomodoro substitute, it’s the equivalent of having an old-school day planner with the hours marked on it, and chunking out your work and meetings in advance in your planner. It’s a great system for students, and for people who have a high degree of control and certainty about their day.

What I did take from Chronodex is the option to stop and visually time block my day when things are getting out of hand in terms of my expectations versus what I can actually do in the time at hand.

If you are at all curious about the system, I encourage you to visit Patrick’s beautiful site and maybe print out a page or two to try it out. Another option is to draw out the Chronodex circles yourselves, just to see if there’s anything in the system for you (don’t do it long term, though, as it takes ages). A third option is to go Etsy and search for Chronodex. There are dozens of stamps for sale with the Chronodex template on them.