fitness

From always hungry to almost never hungry: How my world has changed

 

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I’ve written before about my new weird problem, not getting hungry. I used to be the person who got hungry an hour after eating a satisfying lunch. My stomach growling in the morning was my alarm clock. I often went to bed hungry. So hunger was a familiar feeling for me. But now I’m rarely hungry, though I still love food and have to eat to fuel the activities I love so much. My world has changed and I have a whole new set of problems! The biggest one is forgetting to eat. I have a bike trainer class this afternoon, at 5 pm, and I’ve set an alarm to remind me to eat before I got to class.

See more in the following posts:

 

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I’m not ‘always hungry’ me anymore, thanks to thyroid medication. But I’m also not like the person writing in the Globe and Mail, I Hate Food, who just views foods as sustenance. Kevin Van Paassen writes, “But there’s something else affecting my brain’s reward centre. It’s not that I don’t get hungry, it’s that I’m apathetic as to how that hunger is satiated – protein bar? Steak frites? Whatever is easiest and requires the least amount of work. (You’ll never see me with chicken wings: It’s too little meat for the amount of work and cleanup required.) What is it that’s playing with my pleasure receptors? ”

Van Paassen gets hungry but doesn’t care about food. I love food but don’t get hungry very often. We’ve got almost opposite issues. I’m eating for pleasure these days, and for fuel, and to a much less extent, for hunger. I am trying to choose foods that taste good and are healthy and that meet my nutritional needs. I guess one blessing of the end of the ravenous hunger that’s been part of my life is that I can be more deliberate about my food choices. The downside is sometimes having to lure myself into eating because I just don’t feel like it.

Where do you sit on the hungry/not hungry scale? How about the love food/don’t care much about food scale? Is eating a chore or one of life’s great delights for you?

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dogs · health

My 2016 resolution: work less and live more (Guest post)

Two weeks ago I made a New Years resolution, sort of by accident. It was the end of the semester, I’d just finished a pile of grading and was looking ahead to ten days of panicked administrative work, with a shoehorn or two of panicked research labour shoved down the sides. I suddenly realized it was Christmas time – aka, the winter BREAK – and I was about to be in a situation where, in the words of the great Dr Seuss, no break would be coming.

That’s when I REALLY started to panic.

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I’m one of those lucky women who, at least on the surface, appears to have a really flexible life. My job’s only set hours are the time I spend in the classroom and in my office hours. I can ride my bike in the middle of the afternoon whenever the weather permits, and I can spend Monday mornings at yoga with a group of older women who are mostly retired. But there’s a catch: not having set hours, while sporting a type-A academic’s personality, means I’m hard on myself: I take on a lot of work and I value doing it thoroughly. So when I’m not in my campus office or in the classroom I am inevitably working from home, or racing between meetings with colleagues and artists across Southwestern Ontario. (I teach theatre and performance, and run the theatre studies major and minor at Western University.)

I also have no children, and currently no partner. Which means I feel added pressure to take on labour that consumes time which might otherwise be filled with child care or nurturing a relationship. That’s not to say I am unduly pressured or compelled by colleagues who are parents; for me, it’s also a coping mechanism. If I’m working I’m not thinking too much about the things in my life that are missing.

Because I’m relatively free of responsibilities at home (my dog is an exception; she is an old but sporty girl, and likes a nice walk, or two, or three, or four in a day…), I can spend a lot of time doing the sports I love.

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(Like many singles, I’m obsessed with my companion animal. Emma visits the swans in Stratford, ON, and the Olympic rings in London, UK.)

I ride three times a week; I row twice a week (more in season); I swim, try to stand on my head at yoga, garden, and walk a lot (see above, re sporty dog). Like Nat Hebert, who writes in this space on Saturdays, I know my sporty lifestyle is a huge privilege, economic as well as social.

And I’m grateful for it, believe me. As a feminist, I am hyper-aware that women in particular often get short shrift in mixed households when it comes to sports time. I ride with a cycling club that is easily 90% men; our long ride is scheduled for Saturday mornings. I’ve often wondered aloud what the wives of my fellow (male) riders are doing while the guys cycle 100+km and have breakfast with their friends. Typically this musing is greeted sympathetically, but most have been quick to point out that the ride is scheduled early on Saturdays so that the married men in the club can head home for childcare and other household duties. Which is marvellous – but it also sidesteps the basic good fortune most men in the club share: the ability to leave the house at 7:30 on a Saturday, while their partners take the first childcare shift.

So my free sports time is a wonderful privilege for me, to be sure. But it can also be a burden emotionally.

How’s that? Isn’t sport a great emotional release? Without a doubt. But for me – and even more for working moms and dads I know – it’s easy to convince myself that sporty time is ME time, and thus I ought not to grouse about not having other time for me in the week. In other words: I tell myself that I should work hard when I’m not sportsing hard, because I’ve already taken this huge chunk of time for me, for my sports. That turns, perversely, into negative self talk, where I insist to myself I should buckle down twice as hard, nose in the screen, because lucky me has just been out for a three hour ride. Isn’t that more than enough “me time”?

No, it’s not. And thinking it is is not a healthy attitude, either. The three hour ride is a pleasure and a blessing, but it does not, and should not, substitute for “having a life”. It’s a great PART of my life – just like cooking, eating, walks with the dog, reading books, watching great TV, seeing friends, and sitting quietly with a cup of coffee or tea are all part of my life, or should be. Having a healthy life means prioritising all these things, not feeling guilty about enjoying them, and not worrying while enjoying them that I should really be working.

Which means, of course, that having a healthy life means working less. More than that: it means being conscious of overwork, addressing it, and then choosing to work less. Or, when required, insisting on working less.

We live in a world that now insists, perversely, on overwork as a norm. Everyone is working more for less; the unluckiest among us work all the time and are not even paid enough to feed, clothe, and house themselves and their families properly and safely.

(This is a feature of the economic system under which most Western governments operate today: neoliberalism. It’s a system in which the shareholder is the most important beneficiary of human labour, and workers are valued only insofar as they can generate greater shareholder profit. Banks and the wealthy benefit most from this system; most other human beings are the underpaid and undervalued cogs in its machine. Governments today depend on shareholder profit and bank-sector stability for their own budget success [and thus electability], and so generally support this system at the expense of workers’ rights.)

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I fully understand that not all of us have the privilege that enables us to insist on working less – but that’s all the more reason for those of us who DO to insist, when we can, publically and actively, that all human beings should work only as much as is fair and feasible, and should be paid a living wage when they do.

Because it shouldn’t take a New Years resolution to have a life. Work-life balance is a human right. Somehow our culture, here in North America, has forgotten that. My hope in 2016 is to remind myself and all those around me of this basic fact.

A happy and healthy 2016 to you all!

Kim

 

weight loss

Three boring, but not crappy, books about weight loss

There are a lot of crappy books out there about weight loss. I’ve read many of them.

I’m still conflicted about weight loss. And I totally understand why a sane person would choose to walk away from that goal forever. I’ve written lots about it. Start with Questions and Quibbles about Impossible Weight Loss. But of course I’d still love to be smaller. Why? See Fat, fit, and why I want to be leaner anyway and more recently Wishing for Weight Loss.

So I read about it and think about it and I’m making slow steady progress.

But back to the books on my shelf of weight loss themed books. Three stand out as decidedly less crappy, as positively sensible.

They’re James Fell’s Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3 Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind and Matt Fitzgerald’s Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of Us and Yoni Freedhoff’s The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work.

First a bit about Fell. I really like James Fell but I get that he’s not to everyone’s taste. That’s fine. You do you. He’s Canadian and moderate in a very Canadian kind of way.

Maybe even a bit dull even. His website quotes a rejection letter he received when he was pitching the book: “There’s so much I really like here, David. James has a brash and audacious voice, and a sensible and straightforward message. His column in the LA Times is great, and I like the way he approaches the material … But my main concern, I hate to admit, is the sensible, measured nature of his program. Despite his flashy prose, he actually writes like the informed journalist that he is … sane, levelheaded, with proven advice. And while that’s great journalism, I worry that it’s not as salable of a diet plan.”

Exactly.

Here’s a piece of his advice that makes excellent sense to me: “Eat food that tastes “good” rather than “amazing” Perfectly ripe mangoes contain about 130 calories and taste really good, but after one, you probably won’t want a second. Potato chips and ice cream and cookies and chocolate cake are all designed to taste amazing and override the satiety signals in your brain so that you can take in well over a thousand calories of such treat foods in a single sitting.”

That’s from his Creating A Caloric Deficit: Here’s How To Create – And Maintain – A Caloric Deficit Like A Boss.

It’s boring advice in many many ways. There are no miracle foods, don’t demonize treats, go to bed hungry, eat til you’re satisfied but not full, etc etc. But I suspect when it comes to weight loss the truth is dull. It’s hard work and it doesn’t end. Maintaining weight loss is as much work as taking off in the first place, maybe more.

Matt Fitzgerald is probably best known to readers of this blog for his books on racing weight.

But this book is more thoughtful than prescriptive.

From the raw food movement to Atkins, a vast and ever-increasing number of health and weight-loss diets are engaged in an overheated sectarian struggle to recruit new converts. Paleo Diet advocates tell us that all foods less than 12,000 years old are the enemy. Vegan gurus demonize animal foods. Then there are the low-fat prophets and supplement devotees. But underneath such superficial differences, Fitzgerald observes, these preachers of dietary righteousness all agree on one thing: that there is only “One True Way” to eat for maximum health.

The first clue that this shared assumption is untrue is the sheer variety of diets advocated. Indeed, while all of competing “diet cults” claim to be backed by science, a good look at actual nutritional science suggests that it is impossible to identify a single best way to eat. What makes us human is our ability to eat—and enjoy—a wide variety of foods from all around the globe.

The appeal of the diet cults is their hypnotic power to make healthy eating easier for some people by offering a food-based identity and morality to latch on to. Yet many more of us are turned off by the arbitrariness of the diet cults’ rules and by the speciousness of their dogma.

What’s his positive advice? Well, you likely already know it. The truth is dull.  His approach is  “an “agnostic,” reasonable approach to healthy eating that is flexible enough to accommodate a wide range of personal preferences and lifestyles. Many professional athletes (who are only interested in what works) already practice this agnostic healthy diet, and now we too can ditch the brainwashing of the diet cults for good.”

 

And then there’s another Canadian readers of this blog may know, Yoni Freedhoff.

What is the biggest misconception you wish people could shake off about dieting?

The biggest misconception that I wish people could shake off about dieting is that suffering and sacrifice are dieting’s true determinants of success. Unfortunately, as a species, we just aren’t built to suffer in perpetuity. Consequently, weight that’s lost through suffering, through some combination of under-eating and/or over-exercising, is bound to come back.

What’s the best diet?

There really is no one “best” diet – if there were, there wouldn’t be tens of thousands of different diet books available, and weight struggles would be rare to non-existent. Ultimately a person’s “best” diet is the healthiest diet that they can enjoy, as diets that are merely tolerable, given food’s star billing as one of life’s most seminal pleasures, simply don’t last. Real life does, and frankly must, still include chocolate.

 

 

Word of worry about all three books: They’re all written by guys with a very straightforward style and approach. If you’ve got emotional issues about food, a history of disordered eating, and need a more counselling-like approach to weight loss these books might not be for you. I also worry a bit that all three thin men haven’t dealt personally with the issues around menopause and metabolism. Still, I think these books are the best that’s out there in terms of sensible weight loss advice.

fitness

Bike humour with swapped gender roles: An attempt!

So I asked why most bike jokes feature male cyclists.

And then I shared more gendered bike humour and asked how to redo it with swapped gender roles.

How’s this for an attempt?

Yes, traditional gendered norms but the cyclist is female at least…

A couple were in a busy shopping center just before Christmas. The husband suddenly noticed that his wife was missing and as they had a lot to do he called her on the mobile.

The husband said “Where are you, you know we have lots to do.”

She said “You remember the lingerie shop  we went into about 10 years ago, and you tried to persuade me to buy that sexy nightgown but I said that it wasn’t my sort of thing.”

He turned red and thought of her in the lingerie. Maybe she had changed and maybe she would wear it for Christmas.

“Yes, I do remember that shop.” he replied. “Of course.”
“Well I am in the bike shop next door to that.”

cycling · fitness

Another (seasonal) gendered bike joke!

Recently I blogged about bike jokes that almost always seem to feature male cyclists. Here’s another:

Husband and Wife Christmas Shopping

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A couple were in a busy shopping center just before Christmas. The wife suddenly noticed that her husband was missing and as they had a lot to do, so she called him on the mobile.
The wife said “Where are you, you know we have lots to do.”
He said “You remember the jewelers we went into about 10 years ago, and you fell in love with that diamond necklace? I could not afford it at the time and I said that one day I would get it for you?”
Little tears started to flow down her cheek and she got all
choked up…
“Yes, I do remember that shop.” she replied.
“Well I am in the bike shop next door to that.”

I laughed too when this came across my Facebook newsfeed just now.

But I wonder, can we redo these jokes with female cyclists or do they rely too much on other gender stereotypes? The overly emotional wife who loves jewelry, for example.

Suggestions, ideas for jokes about cyclists and our love of bike shops that don’t rely on husband/wife humour?

fitness · health

4 fitness lessons I learned in 2015

I know– you’re all probably thoroughly tired of year-end lists. We want to rank everything from best reggae cover songs to best pet motels. Yet here I am, wanting to take stock of my experiences of the past fitness year, so a list I shall make.

Herewith, in no particular order, 4 lessons I learned about fitness that I’ll carry with me into 2016.

1) Everyday exercise is good for whatever ails you.

This year taught me that no matter what is going on personally, professionally, medically, or geographically, if I can walk from place to place then I should. And it will help– with stress, with the creakiness of aging, with depression, with decision making, you name it. It also made me slow down (literally), which created time– time to plan and time to contemplate. I’m keeping this up (more on those dreaded New Years resolutions next week).

2) New activities or sports are out there for you when you need them.

Trying a new sort of movement or environment can shake up a fitness routine that’s gotten stale or has stopped working. Last summer I renewed an old interest in kayaking and had lots of adventures with friends and alone, at home and also far away. It helped me feel a sense of accomplishment, too, when running didn’t work out because of knee problems. And I’m pursuing scuba diving next year, too.  Rotating in a new sport can be refreshing to both mind and body.

3) It’s okay to give some familiar sport or activity a rest from time to time.

I love cycling. This year was not a great year, however, for me as a cyclist. For a bunch of reasons, I didn’t get out on long rides, even though I love them. When I went on sabbatical I took my road bike with me. But that didn’t magically translate into a lot of cycling. I was embarrassed about this. But the bikes are still here, and I’m psyched to start training again. I signed up for the Friends for Life Bike Rally next summer with Samantha, Natalie, and a bunch of others. Having a training goal is motivating, and time off the bike will help me approach training afresh.

4) Exercise and sleep are non-negotiable needs.

Earlier this year, both my exercise and sleep schedules got disrupted. When that happens, everything else is affected– mood, concentration, diet, relationships– you name it. For me, it took a 10,000 mile (one way) trip to make clear how profound the benefits of good sleep and exercise are. I feel stronger, much much much happier, and super-refreshed. Now the key is to make these two things a top priority in 2016. But I’m getting ahead of myself– the obligatory resolutions post is coming up.

So, readers– what are some lessons you’ve learned this year about fitness from your experiences?

aging · family

Singing the bad year blues

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2015 has been the kind of year that has friends posting the images above and below to my Facebook wall. It’s not been all bad but there’s been enough bad that my friends are all pitching in to help.

There’s lots of love in my life and I’ve got some wonderful friends. This week the mail brought a beautiful knitted hat, bags of coffee beans, and an awful lot of chocolate. And then another friend and colleague dropped off pumpkin loaf. My favourite things…

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It’s been a very hard year following on the heels of last year’s very tough year. Basically between launching young adults and caring for aging parents, middle age isn’t for faint of heart. In the first half of 2014, both of my parents in law died, one of ALS, the other of a stroke. I was hoping for a better year in 2015 but that wasn’t to be. Instead, this year I had thyroid cancer and my father was diagnosed with untreatable esophageal cancer. He died this month just before Christmas. (Healthwise, I’m fine.)

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I wrote blog posts about remembering my mother in law and father in law but I’m not ready yet to write about my dad. Instead, I’m looking at old photos. I’m thinking about him lots. I’m having a low key Christmas with family. I’ve done some sad running. And I’m hoping for a better year ahead.