cycling · eating disorders · feminism · fitness · motivation

A return to fitness in 2018 (Guest post)

Biking with a friend

I love to make New Year’s resolutions, although I sometimes have uneven results. My main and most exciting New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to do 218 workouts – they don’t have to be particularly strenuous or any set length but they have to be fun and pleasurable.

I hope that 2018 – the year I turn 40 – will be at my fittest year ever. This isn’t an extreme goal because my fittest year was probably 2011, when I was running regularly, had not yet gotten my driver’s license so cycled everywhere out of necessity, and impulsively bought an expensive personal training program. I was 33, so it is not as if I am trying to re-live athletic teen years, which would be considerably harder. I was actually the type of kid for whom gym class was a nightmare. I walked the field when I was supposed to run, regularly ‘forgot’ my gym clothes, and dreaded group sports when my lack of any skill would be humiliatingly apparent to all my classmates.

I was not fit in any sense of the word until my late twenties when I started to cycle everywhere often, in those years, pulling two children and/or groceries (!!) in a bike trailer. When I was 30 and newly single I decided to try some new activities: running, roller derby, hot yoga, and weight-training. I felt fantastic, met some great people, and began to think of myself as a fit, even athletic, person. I felt strong and powerful and had a lot of fun. I still remember the exhilarating day I ran 13 km for the first time. As someone who a couple years earlier could not run one block, I was extremely proud of myself.

Unfortunately, the fitness activities got confused with and integrated into disordered eating habits, which dulled my enjoyment. Healing from disordered eating, which for me meant restricted eating, and unattainable weight loss goals, meant also giving up some of my fitness goals. But now I am about turn 40, a busy PhD student, community activist, and mom. Giving up a strong focus on fitness may have been necessary for me to heal from disordered eating but it also meant that I lost the physical and emotional benefits of fitness especially the almost magical effect it has on my ability to deal constructively with stress.

I miss the camaraderie that accompanied roller derby practices and group runs. I miss experiencing my body as strong and powerful. When I think about my life in ten and twenty years, I want fitness to be an everyday part of it. So, I have made a plan to get to my fittest this year and to re-discover the joy of fitness.

The plan is simple: do 218 workouts in 2018 which will include some weight-training, a gentle triathlon, and a few no-pressure and fun 5 or 10 km runs.

Maybe I’ll even, finally, attempt a fall half marathon – but only if it brings me joy. I also hope to cycle year-round instead of taking a long winter break after which I always feel hesitant and creaky. The focus, other than doing the 218 workouts, will be on feeling pleasure in moving my body and having fun participating in physical activities with other people.

There will be absolutely no weight loss goals or restricted eating plans and I will steer clear of others who have integrated those elements into their fitness plans and motivations. I’m excited, motivated, and ready to have fun and feel strong!

Kayaking in Venice in 2017

Becky Ellis is a PhD student at Western University who studies the bee-human relationship in cities. She is a mom to four kids and a community activist. Becky loves gardening, cycling at a leisurely pace, and taking millions of pictures of bees. She also maintains the blog Permaculture for the People about social justice and urban permaculture.

eating · eating disorders · fitness

I love air too, but not for lunch

Image description: a colour image of smooth stones--white, grey, brown, rose-coloured. The largest one in the centre is grey with white specks and has "Just breathe" etched into it.
Image description: a colour image of smooth stones–white, grey, brown, rose-coloured. The largest one in the centre is grey with white specks and has “Just breathe” etched into it.

I’ve been blogging recently about food alarmism, that annoying tendency some people have to demonize certain foods by talking about how they’ll kill you.

But the most out-there food fad that’s ever come to my attention has got to be “breatharianism.” Sam sent me a link to “‘Breatharian’ couple survives on ‘the universe’s energy’ instead of food.”

This couple–Akahi Ricardo and Camila Castello–claims that humans don’t need food and water, that they can survive on the ‘energy of the universe’ alone. Apparently, since 2008 “they have survived on a piece of fruit or vegetable broth just three times a week.” Castello claims to have eaten nothing during the entire nine months of her pregnancy with her first child. Since she wasn’t used to feeling the sensation of hunger, she says, she “lived fully on light and ate nothing.” Considering pregnant women are meant to eat more not fewer calories to support the growing fetus, it doesn’t sound like the best approach to pregnancy.

She said living on air in the breatharian lifestyle also cured her PMS. Ricardo made the astute observation that “breatharianism” is a great way to slash the cost of your food bills.  Now that they have two children, they eat from time to time so they can share that experience with the kids. Castello says:

“Now, Akahi and I eat very sporadically — perhaps three or four times per week at the most. I might have a few vegetables, a juice or a bite of an apple with my children. Sometimes we have a glass of water too.”

“Whenever I eat now, it’s not because I’m hungry — I just don’t remember that sensation.”

Okay. I consider myself a fairly open-minded person who believes in reserving judgment and letting people live their lives as they wish, with the rough qualification that they not harm others. This pair claims not to impose their breatharian lifestyle on their children.

But when they say they don’t eat and instead exist only on the ‘universe’s energy,’ my first thought is that they have to be lying. I’m no scientist (or mystic), but I think we can say with a fair bit of confidence that you can’t live on ‘universal energy’ alone. My second thought is that okay, so they might eat something (a piece of fruit here, veggie broth there, the occasional glass of water every few days), but it’s not enough.  In reading about their approach, it’s not exactly that they demonize food.  They just consider it unnecessary. Food is not unnecessary. Granted, the air we breathe is also necessary. But surely it’s not sufficient to sustain a person? Don’t we have all sorts of science to back this up? This approach to eating, where the end result is to lose the sensation of hunger and eat very little (if not nothing) sounds alarmingly like an eating disorder.

It seems that I’m not the first person to question the veracity and sense of their claims. After the first article (quoted above), they released a clarificatory statement explaining that they actually do eat a bit more than they originally said:

“We do eat, just not with the same frequency or intensity as the average person,” the couple said in a statement to The Post Wednesday. “When we went through the ‘Breatharian’ transition 21-day process, our intention wasn’t to stop eating, but rather to heal on a genetic level, information that gets passed through the generations and manifests in each person in different ways (like ‘hereditary’ information). The not-eating was like a side effect that we freely explored when we were a young couple, without children, and also through Camila’s pregnancy.”

There might be more to it than what I’ve talked about here. They say it involves “conscious breathing” techniques as well. And guess what? They offer courses on that which range in price from $200 to $1700.

The upshot here is this: it’s a variation on a food fad. You can dress it up with “universal energy” and “conscious breathing,” but in the end it’s just another way of depriving yourself of food. I’m the last person to tell people what they should eat. But please, please, eat something. And eat enough.

If you’ve heard of any other equally outrageous food fads, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

 

 

 

diets · eating · eating disorders · food

Sugar free September? Good God no?

 

Image result for sugar free september

We’ve thought a lot about sugar here on the blog. There was Tracy’s plan to dump sugar, your reaction, and her change in plans. See her posts Dumping Sugar: this is not a detox. and Dumping the Sugar Dump: critical follow up.

I’m officially leery of quitting sugar entirely. See Six reasons this feminist isn’t giving up sugar and Sugar on my tongue: In defence of the sweet stuff.

And I think I can safely say, for me at least, I don’t want to open up that particular can of worms again for awhile. However, our experience of blogging about sugar convinced me that it’s controversial and complicated. This issue isn’t easy.

That’s why I was super surprised to see the Canadian Cancer Society advocating Sugar Free September.

About Sugar-Free September

Fancy a month off the sweet stuff to help raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society?

Sugar-Free September challenges you to go sugar-free for 30 days to raise vital funds for the Canadian Cancer Society to create a world where no Canadian fears cancer.

Commit to quitting the cookies and brownies, lock up the doughnuts, ditch the candies and kick the sugar habit by signing up to Sugar-Free September and raise money for life-saving research and vital services for people living with cancer.

Most Canadians consume diets high in added sugar, which can lead to excess weight gain. Research shows that being overweight or obese increases the risk of cancer.

Get your health and body back on track by reducing your intake of food and drinks with added sugars from your diet for an entire month! It’s a great way to learn how easy it is to moderate consumption while also feeling the benefits of healthier eating.

Image result for sugar free september

I worry that this feeds into food fear and that very little good can come of it. I worry that people who want an excuse to adopt a very restrictive diet will find this appealing. And I worry it will hurt people with a history of eating disorders.

But that’s me. I’m the over-thinking worrying sort. Pretty much an occupational hazard!

What do you think? And if you’re doing sugar free September, how’s it going so far?

Image result for worrying

 

diets · eating · eating disorders

Disrupt your Diet Offers a Beginner’s Guide to Eating Right

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What prompted the creation of the advice graphic? This! (And the hundreds of others like it.)

 

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For Tracy’s take on “clean eating” see Living Clean without Eating Clean.

eating disorders · food · nutrition

Food fear and righteous eating

Guest blogger Nancy McHugh was interviewed on Utah Public Radio by Tom Williams on his show Access Utah. They talked about the lecture she was giving at Utah State University on food marketing, food fear, and orthorexia. They also talked about her forthcoming book, The Limits of Knowledge. You can listen to her talk about “clean eating” here.

Dr. Nancy McHugh