body image · diets · eating · eating disorders · fitness · food · sports nutrition

Intuitive eating — beyond sports nutrition

Image description: a single fresh strawberry with leaf still attached to the top.

As long time readers may know, I am a big fan when it comes to intuitive eating. I’ve written about it lots, including this post “Intuitive Eating: What It Is and Why I Love It.” So I was excited to see an article in Outside online singing its praises as the “ultimate anti-diet.”

Not everyone around here is sold on intuitive eating. Sam has written about her four worries about intuitive eating. I agree that it’s not a cure all that works for everyone. And as Sam says, it depends what you mean by “works.” She puts it like this: “I don’t mean weight, that’s for sure. I mean if you eat this way are you, on reflection, happy with the food choices you’re making? Are you leading a life you enjoy? Are you meeting your own food goals around nutrition? Do you have energy to do the things you love? “

For me, it goes back to the anti-diet idea outlined in the Outside article. Dieting breeds obsession. As some with a history of chronic dieting and disordered eating, intuitive eating has freed me from that. It took awhile (see my post, “It only took 27 years but now I’m a bona fide intuitive eater”), but as an intuitive eater I am way more well-adjusted about food than I ever was before. Intuitive eating is more a response to chronic dieting. Granted, it may not work for everyone, but it does work for some.

In my reply (in the comments) to Sam’s worries, I said the following:

…many people who are drawn to this approach are dealing with a more psychologically deep set of attitudes and behaviours around food that, if they can get to intuitive eating, they can be free of. It works for me because for the first time in my life I do not obsess about food every waking moment. I don’t panic when I am at an event with a buffet table. I don’t hate myself when I take a brownie. I don’t gorge myself beyond full because I can’t figure out when I’ve eaten enough. And I don’t go to bed every night full of regret over what I ate that day (and it’s not because I’m always making “healthy” choices) and wake up in the morning planning my meals and snacks to the last unrealistic detail. I can also go hungry without panicking and recognize that’s okay. And that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no food around, but there may be no food that will do and I would rather wait. It’s okay to subject any approach that doesn’t work for you to criticism. That is what we as philosophers do. But for myself, who has a history of extremely messed up thinking about food and of disordered eating, it’s been an absolute life saver that’s taken me 27 years to reach. I don’t have perfect hunger signals, but being in touch with my hunger feels more like a hard won battle than a privilege at this point.

That’s why it’s inaccurate to say it’s only about listening to your body. As Christine Byrne, author of the article in Outside notes, there are lots of dimensions to intuitive eating besides “listen to your body.” On its own, for all sorts of reasons, “listen to your body” isn’t helpful advice. Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole, authors of the 1995 book Intuitive Eating, identified a number of other features of intuitive eating, including the idea of challenging the food police (whether they’re other people or live in your head) and no longer moralizing food (it’s not good or evil).

Byrne also talks about the importance of a nuanced approach. A dietician interviewed for the article, Heather Caplan, comments: “For the purpose of sports nutrition, I’ll often have someone eat when they’re not hungry, before or after a hard workout,” Caplan says. “Not everyone feels like eating at 6 A.M., I identify with that. But I also identify with not eating and being hungry 15 minutes into a run.” Instead of honoring hunger, think of it as figuring out how food makes your body feel in different situations and honoring those feelings. If eating when you’re not hungry helps fuel a better workout or minimize post-workout soreness, it’s a good choice.”

A good choice serves your workouts and helps you with recovery. It’s not only about hunger signals.

I like how Byrne puts it: “Ultimately, intuitive eating is a way to make sure your needs are being met. What separates intuitive eating from traditional diets is that it’s 100 percent flexible—it can (and will) look different for everyone.”

That’s what makes it the opposite of dieting. Dieting is not about meeting our needs. Dieting isn’t flexible. The hallmark of a fad diet is that it looks the same for everyone.

If you’ve been avoiding intuitive eating because you worry that it seems not to fit with the nutritional needs of your sports activities, then thinking of it as a way to make sure your needs are being met might offer a new angle on it. My guess is that if you do not struggle or have not struggled with dieting, where food is an all-consuming mental obsession, then you really have no reason to feel drawn to this approach. But if chronic dieting of that kind is a thing in your history, then intuitive eating in all of its dimensions is an attractive alternative that can help bring some peace to your vexed relationship with food and your body. At least that is how it worked for me.

Does intuitive eating have any appeal for you?

accessibility · fitness · Guest Post · motivation · race report · running

Julie’s Lulu 10K – in which the swag was good and Anita and Tracy were voices in her head (guest post)

by Julie

Last Saturday I embarked on the Lululemon 10K I would say that I am not too much into material things but for those that know me would say that might be a stretch when it comes to Lulu! I like to do races for the company and the swag but this race I only had the swag as my company, Anita and Tracy, have been globe trotting and training for the 30 K the past few months. 

I have to admit I have not run as often as I should but when I do I run hard for like 5 minutes and crash when I am on my own. Anita is the pacer of the group and without her I am often lost. When alone I often call this my ‘run like hell’ and die runs or sprint and walk. Tracy is the one that often motivates with her interesting and passionate discussions and the things I have gained from the both of them can not be measured in words.

Image description: full body shot of three women, Julie, Tracy and Anita, dressed in summer running gear (shorts, tanks, and running shoes), blue sky and trees in the background. Taken a couple of summers ago after a Sunday run.

I was a bit nervous but I had done a lengthy run 2 weekends before with Anita (almost died but survived) and I was going out every other night for my run and die sprints. So I felt confident and I approached it with the attitude of once I have the shirt I only have to finish and they had walkers at the end so no shame. 

I was grateful to learn that there was a pace bunny, incredibly people these pacers, just ask Tracy and I how grateful we are to have Anita to ‘slow us down guys.’ My approach that morning was no technology, no phones, no watch, other than my fossil time telling and no monitoring devices. Just me, the ground and 10 000 other racers.

I felt good and we started early so this bode’s well for me and my bathroom habits so off I went, alone, into the running coral. I pulled into the Green coral for the 61-75 minutes and found a bunny. It was typically crowded and the weather was exactly perfect, not too hot or sunny and I was dressed right. When we started to go I felt strong and listened to Anita in my head telling me to hold back and slow it down. No need to burnout I did this once and it was very self defeating. 

I passed the markers with pretty good ease and tried to stick to a 10 min run and 1 min walk as I normally do but I was feeling good after 20 minutes so I kept pace behind the bunny with only about 3 walks for less than a minute for the total race. I could hear Tracy in my mind commenting on the pacing and the feeling of the race, there were bands and singers, lots of energy and at one point I passed a series of spin cyclists biking and cheering us on. I wondered what Tracy would have thought she likes to see these things along the race and  there were the giant angels with donuts, the dancers and of course the witty signs. However, with all of this I looked up and saw that 7 km had gone by with a fair bit of ease so I picked up the pace and rounded the bend to the uphill.

I remember this from my Scotiabank Race a few years back but I was strong, calm and Anita was there chanting in my mind to keep a steady pace. I hit the top of the hill and with 2 km left to go I picked it up more and the crowds were a bit heavier. I was a bit frustrated by the lack of runners etiquette with many slower runners going 4-5 wide and it was difficult to pass. No one was moving to the right and a couple of times I almost ran into people in mid stride on the left side of the lane who just stopped. I was tired but used a few tricks Tracy told me about in her training (1,2,3,4 …I can run a little more, 5,6,7,8 … keep on going get to the gate … 9,10 do it again!) 

I rounded the bend and saw my chance and took off for the finish. 

I finished the race in good time 1 hour and 3 minutes!! The worst part of the race was the finish line where everyone stopped before hitting the third marker and then the crowds came to a slow crawl. It seemed to take forever to get the medal and there were people just crowded everywhere. One could not go left or right. They handed out Sage essential oils and some snack bars but I did not get these as I was not able to see anyone in the mosh pit of a finish line. I got my banana and tried to get to an exit which was impossible. They handed out boxes of what I learned later were dry and dusty donuts but the box was neat. It took about 20 minutes to go from the finish line to a clearing. 

All in all I was so happy with my time and my t-shirt and I purchased some extra swag at the end with Toronto 2019 and coordinates on them so that was a nice $$$ takeaway. 

Would I do it again? Given the distance from home it is a bit more $$ but if you make it a bit of a trip and like the gear then it was fun. I am happy with my time and I got my banana! I also learned that the people you run with over time become a part of your race and inspire you in so many different ways. No technology made it better I think as I was not focused on a wrist watch and I instead felt my feet on the pavement, my breath in the air and my friends in my mind. I will rate this one a success and on to my next race or Sunday run with Tracy and Anita (if they are up for the challenge)!

Julie Riley – Fitness enthusiast at times reluctantly but always a team player! Runner, CrossFit and general city walker who also teaches yoga on the side. Julie is passionate about working on her healthy choices one day at a time without judgement of the setbacks!

fitness · running · training

Tracy’s lost cardio fitness

Oh wow is it ever a challenge getting back to running since I took an involuntary hiatus from it after the Around the Bay 30K sidelined me with debilitating back pain. By the time that started to resolve it was time to go to Rwanda. Then I was only home for 12 hours before flying to Vancouver. And then the jet lag kicked my butt. And then I got home to the week (or was it 10 days?) from hell.

During all that time (just over 2.5 months) I have run four or five times, not for more than 30 minutes. And I can report with confidence that 2.5 months is sufficient time to lose whatever cardio fitness I had gained through a winter of training for 30K.

My most palpable rude awakening came this past Sunday. Before that, all my runs were tentative, cautious outings aimed at testing my back more than anything else. But Sunday, my back having not given me any trouble for at least a month and no jet lag, I ventured out for a short run with the express purpose of getting back to routine. I planned for about 20-25 minutes of continuous running at an easy pace. Instead, after just 7 minutes I could hardy breathe, and that’s not because I went out too quickly. I just didn’t have the endurance anymore. I ended up being out for about 30 minutes of run-walk and it all felt pretty laboured.

I try not to feel discouraged when I have set backs. It happens. The conditioning will return. I know this. But it did shock me how very difficult that short run felt.

On a positive note: my strength training hasn’t suffered to quite the same degree. I managed 3 sets of 13 pull ups yesterday. And I have new shoes, which I tested out for the first time Sunday. They’re great!

Image description: overhead shot looking down at pavement, with grass beside, Tracy’s lower legs and feet visible in her new pink running shoes.

What’s your best strategy for getting back on track after a voluntary or involuntary hiatus?

body image · fitness

Funny, not funny—turning around those “beach body” blues

Cate’s beautiful and resonant Sunday post “Making Peace with Our Changing Bodies” got a lot of traction. It was a smart post that outlined the complicated feelings many of us experience when our bodies start to change. One of the things I admired most about Cate’s post is that she was honest that she’s found herself engaging in body-shaming against herself. And in becoming aware of that, she determined to do something about it. In Cate’s world, as for many of us, the feelings don’t always align with what we know to be true. What we know to be true is “There is no “back to normal” — there is only forward, aging, changing bodies, and the challenge of loving ourselves as we are, finding our fierce warrior selves.”

Cate moved forward by realizing that ill-fitting clothing was a trigger for feeling poorly about herself. And so she ventured out to buy clothes that she liked and that fit her. Because she can do that. And it made her feel a bit better about the changes. Yay Cate (I love Cate so much).

I’ve been having my own issues. Six years ago I blogged about this in “Making Peace with My Body.” There I talked about how it’s been a lifelong road for me. And that despite some good advice, and knowing full well that I am not my body, that there is nothing wrong with a changing body or weight gain or a redistribution of fat to new places where it never used to settle, that I am perfectly fine at whatever size I am, that body shaming (which was hardly even a concept I had a grasp of six years ago though I felt it) messages are no way to talk about myself or about others…Despite all of this I recognized I couldn’t simply “call a truce.”

Here’s what I said then: “It is the body image, not the body, that needs to change. And slowly, slowly, things are shifting. But to suggest that I can call a truce and then be done with it?For me, it’s been a bit longer of a road than that, requiring several rounds of peace talks over many, many years.”

And I have been consistently engaged in those peace talks over these many years. Yet every spring we are confronted by messages that encourage us to work on our “beach body” or our “summer body.” This post, for example, was prompted by the lament presented here, on a tombstone:

Image description: A tombstone that says “In loving memory of ANY POSSIBILITY OF A SUMMER BODY SO SUDDENLY TAKEN FROM US BY CARBS, WINE, CHOCOLATE, NAPS, NETFLIX, & PIZZA” from the website

Yes, I recognize that this is meant as humour. But it is so filled with wrong-headed assumptions that it just makes me shake my head and fills me with despair (yes, despair. I am not exaggerating). First of all it assumes that we are seeking “a summer body.” We all know what that means. Second, it calls it: TOO LATE! Third, it lays the blame: our own poor choices.

No, no, no. No wonder so many of us struggle against ourselves in the face of such messaging. I know there are people who will read this and say they just ignore these sorts of messages because they are ridiculous messages. If you’re able to ignore the cultural messaging without any consistent effort to undo the damage of a lifetime of normative pressure, I applaud you. For many it is not as easy.

When Sam circulated this tombstone, Christine said her favourite beach body counter-message is this:

Image description: A toddler girl in a cute one-piece swimsuit with a little ruffle around the top. She is sipping happily on a juice box. Heading says: BEACH IS GONNA GET WHATEVER BODY I GIVE IT.

She it doesn’t care. I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on what it means to be myself. This kid epitomizes what it means. She’s happy. She doesn’t yet “realize” that there are cultural pressures to look a certain way and that those actually determine how you get treated, what opportunities may be open to you, how people will judge you. She doesn’t yet know the little compromises some of us make in order to “be acceptable” to the people around us. She doesn’t yet know how it feels to internalize those expectations so that we don’t even need others to shame us. She doesn’t yet know how hard it is to fly in the face of what’s expected and be who you are.

And that’s what makes her seem so badass.

Then there is this oldie but goodie, that we’ve blogged about before:

Image description: words on a dark background that say, “how to have a beach body: 1. have a body 2. go to the beach.”

Awhile back in the London tube, commuters waged a campaign against an ad that pictured a slender women in a bikini and said “Are you beach body ready?” I blogged about this at the time (because it actually turned into a slightly complicated issue of free speech in London). The ads were eventually taken down, but not before lots of body positive messages were scrawled over them. But by far my favourite graffiti response was the one that simply added “fuck off” right under the “are you beach body ready?” question.

These days, when I read this stuff about summer and beach bodies, that’s pretty much how I feel. Just leave us alone already. There are lots of people working against the normative messaging, and that generates a ton of backlash every single time. I loved hearing about the initiative of former London Ontario resident, Kayla Logan, to promote body positivity. You can hear her talk about it on CBC Radio, “Curvy and worthy: why this former Londoner is convincing others to bare it all.” But the comments on the CBC facebook post were disheartening and showed that fat shaming and body policing is still alive and well.

Meanwhile, I’ve bought myself a bunch of new swimsuits for this summer, a range of tops (both bikini and tankini styles in a range of patterns and colours) and bottoms (boy shorts, which are my current favourite) and I’m looking forward to taking this body of mine to the beach.

If you have a body positive beach meme or message to share, please link to it or quote it in the comments.

advertising · fitness · motivation · soccer · team sports

It may be an ad, but “Dream Further” inspires and uplifts

Did you know that the FIFA Women’s World Cup is happening right now, in France, from June 7th to July 7th?

The latest Nike ad, released on the eve of the women’s World Cup of Soccer, is a heart-pumping, rousing ad that celebrates women’s soccer through the eyes of a child with an exciting dream. As the article “Nike’s New Ad Is a Celebration of Badass Women’s Soccer Players, and We’re Studying Up” says: “The commercial is a who’s who of talented women’s soccer players, from the United States’ Crystal Dunn to Brazil’s Andressa Alves, introducing you to the stars you’ll see in the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup. The real star of the show, though, is Makena Cooke, a 10-year-old soccer player from California.”

In the 3:00 commercial, we follow Makena Cooke running, kicking, falling, cheering, and even scoring alongside the very best of the FIFA women’s World Cup soccer rosters from all over the world. It’s an exciting ad that is sure to lift your spirit.

It might make you want to watch the world-class women’s soccer that the World Cup has to offer. It might make you want to kick a ball around yourself. It might make you want to cry (a few people reported that it made them emotional).

Whatever it might make you want to do, here it is.

Nike Dream Further commercial.

Enjoy! (I’m keeping my Saucony’s though)


Confidence Is a Feminist Issue #tbt

Four years ago, I wrote about confidence as a feminist issue. Today I still think it is. I know Amy Cuddy’s work on power posing has been called into question, but I still think there is a place for it. I have never felt worse after standing like Wonder Woman. I’ve also lately been listening to a great podcast (not really about fitness but about life in general) called “The Confidence Chronicles” with a woman named Erika. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I’m sure, but I like her message of taking no shit. So here’s my post from five years ago about why confidence is a feminist issue. Enjoy!


I had a great post all written on why confidence is a feminist issue, and then I did one of those things where I deleted the entire flipping thing and couldn’t get it back. I am afraid that I don’t have it in me to write the same again, so I’ll just give some of the highlights.

I’ve been reading and thinking about confidence lately in relation to my sport performance. Especially I’m aware that I convince myself of all sorts of negative things — I’m slow, I’ll always be last on the bike, I’ll never get any better…etc.

Confidence is a feminist issue because, as it turns out, there is a confidence gap.  Men are way more confident than women in all sorts of ways, and in a world where confidence takes people further than competence, that cashes out into all sorts of systemic advantages for men.

An article,

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Do you use caffeine? Tracy does

image description: coffee cup with a latte with foam in the image of a lion, saucer, and teaspoon

I used to drink no coffee. For many years I even avoided caffeinated tea. I had to keep an eye on my caffeine intake because if I overdid it, I got all jittery and stressed out, and it affected my sleep patterns.

Then, back when I was training for triathlon for our Fittest by Fifty Challenge (Sam and I turned 50 in 2014), I read somewhere (I don’t know where), that caffeine was a good little kickstart for race day. I tried it before one of my events that summer and I guess I determined that it helped.

Still and all, I only drank coffee for events, and I only had four events that summer. So that’s not a whole lot of coffee in the scheme of things.

I’m thinking about coffee today because of that study that just came out about how “Science” has shown that even people who drank up to 25 (!!) cups of coffee a day “were no more likely to experience stiffening of the arteries than someone drinking less than a cup a day.”

Another reason I’m thinking about it is that my coffee use has taken on much larger proportions than it had five years ago, slowly becoming a daily habit, complete with headaches if I don’t have at least one cup in the morning.  After the triathlon stint, I started to use coffee a little bit on long solo road trips. Not a lot, but a cup here and there so I wouldn’t get tired.

Again, long road trips were few and far between, so it hadn’t yet become a daily habit. Then came a few far away trips where I needed coffee in the mornings to help me adjust to the time change. By then, I was starting to enjoy coffee and seek out good coffee. I think that once we start going out of our way for good coffee, we’re kind of hooked.

Towards the end of last summer I was drinking coffee most days but didn’t really notice that I was until one day, on a weekend, I started to get a headache sometime Saturday afternoon. After some time it dawned on me that I hadn’t had a coffee yet. Uh oh.

I’m not a big fan of dependency. When I realized that I was experiencing physical withdrawal, I decided that I would quit coffee again. That was on the Sunday.

Monday I went to work. We had just moved into a newly renovated space and my office now had a really nice kitchen. Literally on the day I was going to quit, I walked into the kitchen where my colleague proudly pointed out that he had purchased a really good espresso machine for our new kitchen. That means really good coffee. How could I say no.

I start every work day with an Americano with soy milk. And I really enjoy it. So when Christmas rolled around I decided it was time to treat myself to my very own machine. And now I have a soy latte most mornings at home before work, plus my at-work Americano.

And when I was in Rwanda the past couple of weeks I had a morning breakfast routine of coffee first, then a strong tea after that. I sometimes even drank coffee in the middle of the afternoon because otherwise I wouldn’t have made it. And now I’m nine time zones away from Kigali, in Vancouver at the Canadian Philosophical Association conference, and I wouldn’t be making it with my morning Americano.

But I’m nowhere near 25 cups a day.

Do you “use” caffeine?