It’s not even December 1 and I have been seeing a non-stop stream of ads, posts and recommended links on all manner of cleanses. Some are short, some are long, some are liquid, and some are minimal. All are useless.
Timothey Caulfield at the University of Alberta debunks the latest holiday cleanses in this article. Caulfield writes:
The idea that we need to cleanse and detoxify our bodies seems to have become a culturally accepted fact. This feels especially true around the holidays which are associated with heavy foods and even heavier shame about what that turkey and gravy and wine might be doing to our insides. After a weekend of indulgence, wellness gurus cry, your body is begging for a detox. But is it?
While there is something to be said for countering a week (or two) of indulgence with lighter fare, unless you were born liver-less or you lost your liver along the way, the human body has its own detox system right inside you: the aforementioned liver and kidneys.
There’s a huge market out there and if you build it, make it, sell it, they will come. The promises are endless but the long and short of it is simple: today’s cleanses and detox programs are primarily designed to relieve you of your money.
The sellers of these cleanses rely on fear and vanity, and also on society’s preoccupation on thinness. The messages are often wrapped upin social beliefs about health and wellness.
We empower people to take charge of their health, especially women who are often responsible for managing their well being along with those of their families. Who wants to be known as someone who does not care about their health? Not me.
While the social imperative to diet, to cleanse, to eat clean is present year-round, there seems to be special pressure in December to do any number of things to ensure we have the perfect body.
All the ads I have seen lead me to believe that we must cleanse the body the same way we cleanse our homes for special occasions this time of year. In January, when the new year has begun and we barely have had time to vacuum the pine needles and expunge the last piece of glitter from our homes, we get a different chorus but still with the same tune.
I suggest, if we are to cleanse anything, it is these sorts of unhelpful and unhealthy approaches to wellness.
So if you are confused and challenged by all that you see, remember this: everything in moderation. Your body will do what it needs to do. Fuel it appropriately. Move lots (preferably outside if it isn’t blowing a gale). Get lots of sleep. Drink lots of water. Have fun.
Look what came through my newsfeed on Black Friday: “It’s not a corset, it’s shapewear! It’s made of the same stuff as gym leggings. Why? Well, it keeps you conscious of everything you’re eating, it holds you in & basically makes you feel amazing. Grab yours now in the “BLACK FRIDAY Meltdown”
MAKES YOU CONSCIOUS OF EVERYTHING YOU’RE EATING? That’s the line that caught my eye.
I’ve written before about corsets for working out. Not surprisingly I didn’t have much good to say. I ended by saying that I’m sticking with exercise clothes that don’t pinch at the waist, like my cycling bib shorts. I am a big fan of breathing.
My feminism and fashion students a few years ago were torn between “you do you”–it’s all about choice–and thinking it might be fun for sexy fetish wear. No one wanted to defend the corset for daily wear, not in front of the class anyway. What are the daily wear arguments? Some people just like the way they look. Others like the posture correcting effects. And finally, others thought they were a good way to control your appetite because there’s no room for food when everything is tucked in tight with a corset.
Now this ISN’T A CORSET (though I’ve got to say it looks like one). Note though the argument in its favour is food related. It makes you conscious of every bite you take. Presumably the idea is that there’s no mindless munching. But my worry is that you also eat less. Sometimes that might be less than you need.
What are your thoughts? What do you make of the diet related reasons to wear a “not-quite-corset”?
Cooking shows… some are great and some less so, but many of them – at least until recently – have had one thing in common: if they were about high-level cuisine, they were mostly male (and white). If they were about everyday home cooking, they were mostly female (and also white). In the past couple of years or so, this has slowly begun to change. Netflix has been at the forefront of this development with its original productions. Ugly Delicious was still mostly male, but at least less white. Chef’s Tablestill explores a lot of male, Western white chefs, but also really interesting women and people from countries outside of the traditional Michelin star circuit (Ana Roš from Slovenia, for instance, Musa Dağdeviren from Turkey, or Cristina Martínez, a Mexican chef living in the US undocumented).
But BAM, up shows Samin Nosrat, author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, and with her Netflix-produced show of the same name, changes everything we know to be true about cooking shows. Nosrat, an American of Iranian descent, explores these four key elements of great cooking through the lenses of different countries. The Salt episode takes place mostly in Japan. For Fat, she goes to Italy. Acid is set in Mexico, and finally Heat focuses on her own kitchen. She is genuinely curious and appreciative of everything the locals she interviews for her show tell her, and constantly relates it back to her own culinary upbringing, but without overpowering the stories of her interview partners.
She’s unapologetic about her own enjoyment of food. Samin Nosrat’s relationship to eating seems so healthy and natural. It’s so good! she exclaims again and again, and you can’t not start salivating as you watch. I mean, imagine – a whole episode about fat without one single remark along the lines of ‘guilty pleasures’, ‘I shouldn’t really’, ‘just this once’…?! In a cooking show presented by a woman? This is unheard of. She even asks for more. This is how it should be, but too many times sadly it’s not.
In a world where women are constantly shamed for enjoying food, where exercise is frequently framed in terms of dieting and weight loss (women must work out so they can eat), and where talking about food in public is still defined by gender and racial stereotypes, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is huge. It’s refreshing, genuine, and heartwarming. Highly recommended! Also, you can get some of the recipes from the show on its website. A-ma-zing.
(Other people have written much more eloquently than I ever could about the impact of this show, see e.g. here, and here.)
Yesterday, Sam tagged me on a video that said there’s a new term for “masculine vegans.” The term is “Hegans.”
According to the video, men want to pursue “a plant-based diet” but they’re waiting for permission because it’s not masculine. Busting that myth, the video shows a bunch of masculine, even “beefy” men, singing the praises of their vegan diet “without losing a sense of masculinity.”
When Sam tagged me she asked if I was a “Shegan.” Ha ha.
The association of meat-eating with masculinity is not a new idea. In 1990, Carol Adams published The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. In it, she explored the connection between patriarchal values and meat-eating. Nevertheless, it’s been a long time since I considered in any explicit way that in this day and age anyone would think that a vegan diet might be emasculating.
I’m not sure why this surprised me because in fact the most frequent question vegans ever get asked is “what about protein?” And there is still a strong sentiment out there that animal protein is higher quality than plant-based protein. And we all know that in order to build strong muscles, we need to include protein in our diets. And masculine men have strong muscles. Therefore, they need to eat meat. (I’m just saying what the argument is — not saying it’s a good argument). If they don’t eat meat, then they risk their masculinity because they might lose muscle.
But wait! The Hegans show this line of thinking to be false! In fact, according to the video, they have even stronger personalities than meat-eating men because “acting on what you believe in describes true strength.”
I’m all for any promotion of the vegan message and the dispelling of myths, especially those associated with an un-nuanced understanding of what it means to be a man. And I like the revised narrative that the video promotes: “the most manly thing you can do is show compassion to others.”
That said, the whole idea that we need to gender the plant-based diet, by labeling the men who embrace it as “hegans” strikes me as at best unfortunate and at worst inserting gender differences where they aren’t needed and don’t help the cause.
Bright red maple leaves against a blue sky. Photo by Unsplash.
Here’s the fun, easy thing. I’ve started swimming lessons and I’m excited about that. I love learning new things though I feel like I have been learning to swim my whole life! And maybe that’s okay. We’re working (so far) on breathing and kicking. I feel like I am learning lots, I’m not hopeless, and I feel like someday I might be able swim lengths of the pool again. The lessons are semi-private and the other student is a 4th year undergrad, an international student, hoping to learn to swim strokes. The instructor is also a senior undergrad and we’re all having fun. The lessons are short–30 minutes–but twice weekly and I can come early and stick around after for extra time in the pool. This weekend I’m shopping for a second fitness-y, swimming pool type bathing suit and new goggles. Woohoo!
Here’s the thing that’s hard to talk about, doctors and weight loss. I met with a family doctor with some experience/expertise in the area of weight loss. Why? Well, less knee pain is the short answer. But also better surgical outcomes and quicker recovery if I go that route. I also stand a better chance of avoiding knee surgery until the inevitable knee replacement many years down the road. I know doctors recommend weight loss for everything but in this case–I’ve read a bunch of the journal literature–I think they’re right. I don’t think it’s a case like this.
So in my case I’m not being extra active in order to lose weight. I’m trying to lose weight to preserve my level of activity. There’s nothing magical on offer. The best diet is the one you can live with. I knew that going in. Weight loss is tough. Read Everything You Know About Obesity is Wrong if you want to know how tough. But with my active lifestyle which I love up for grabs, I have to try. The odds aren’t great. I know that. Given my size and the knee problems, I qualify for weight loss surgery. I declined. I also qualify for appetite suppressing medication. Again, for now, I declined. I might try it later. Instead I’m using MyFitnessPal and tracking all the things, trying to find a lower calorie life I can live with. I like this, from Yoni Freedhoff,
Now, you should know that I too have a weight-loss agenda. It’s fairly easy to describe. In a nutshell, I don’t believe that there’s one right diet to suit everyone. In my clinical practice, as well as in my book, I embrace the fact that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of factors that influence an individual’s chances of long-term success. Low fat, low carb, keto, paleo, intermittent fasting, vegan, Mediterranean, meal replacement, whatever – there are success stories out there with each and every diet that exists.
While I’ve seen proof of this in my own clinical practice, you don’t have to take my word for it. Instead, look no further than the National Weight Control Registry for evidence that, when it comes to successfully keeping weight off long term, everyone’s different. The massive database established in the 1990s tracks why and how over 10,000 people have managed to keep an average loss of 67 pounds off for over five years. And there, as I’ve described, there isn’t one answer.
The one thing successful dieters have in common is that they reduce their calories on their new diets and like their lives and diets enough while on it to sustain its adoption for good. So, while it’s true that you might be able to lose more weight, or to lose weight faster, with one diet versus another, unless you keep living with it forever, that weight’s coming back when you head back to the life and diet that you actually liked before you lost.
To put it even more succinctly: If you promote the notion that there’s one right way to lose weight or live healthfully, you’re part of the problem. The more weight you’d like to permanently lose, the more of your life you’ll need to permanently change. And, when it comes to something as pleasurable as food, merely tolerable lives just aren’t good enough. What’s best for you is undoubtedly worst for someone else.
I reviewed his book, The Diet Fix, here. I’m seeing a family doctor, Aric Sudicky who as part of his training did a placement with Yoni Freedhoff.
In the photo below, Aric is on the left and Yoni, on the right. They’re both proponents of evidence based medicine and I like that neither downplays how hard it is to lose weight and keep it off.
1 Year ago today. I tailored my family training to include lifestyle-focused electives that complement emerge, specialty clinics, and other mandatory blocks.
Obesity medicine was an important elective and had the honour of learning from one of the best Canada has to offer. pic.twitter.com/09mlEwyMWf
At no point have I felt like I’m not believed about what I eat and my current level of activity.
Where am I? I started at 240 lbs for my all time winter high and I’m down to 225. I’d like to get down to 175, which is still solidly in the ‘overweight’ category for my height. But I’m pretty muscular and the normal range 121-158 lbs are weights I haven’t seen since elementary school me! I’ve been keeping my weight loss updates to the monthly check-ins, complete with content warnings. Tracy and I are pretty committed to keeping weight loss talk to a minimum. But I’ve been writing about it at all because it’s very closely tied to my desire to stay active.
Two different knee surgeons say that no matter what I’ll never run again and though weight didn’t cause that (lots of skinny people have osteoarthritis–it’s not caused by my size) if I want to keep walking, hiking etc I need to lose weight. You can read about my left knee here. You can read more about it here.
Given that it’s tied to me having an active future, I feel like I want to write about it. The content warnings should help people avoid it, I hope.
Why is it so hard to write about weight loss? Why?
I know what’s hard about it for me. For years I’ve been happy and active at a larger size, sharing the message that you don’t need to be thin to be fit. I’m not throwing that message out now this larger body isn’t serving me so well. There are so many imperatives to lose weight. See Wishing for weight loss. Looks, caring about pay and teaching evaluations even, and so many medical arguments that aren’t true. So many reasons I reject. But then there is this one, pain. It’s awful and urgent and I want it to stop.
We blog a lot about working out and different kinds of training here. And lately with all the book media Sam and I have talked quite a bit about our Fittest by 50 Challenge. One of my proudest achievements, that I started back at in earnest during the Challenge, had nothing to do with workouts and training. It was putting the scale away, stopping tracking and monitoring food in an external way, and committing to the principles of Intuitive Eating. As I reported as last summer drew to an end, it only took 27 years but I finally made it! And I’m happy to say that I’m still there. No longer do I obsess about what I’m going to eat, when I’m going to eat it and how much of it I’m going to consume! Yay for freedom from obsession! p.s. I realize it’s not an approach for everyone but it’s definitely changed my life (made me a lot happier). Here’s last summer’s post about it. If you’ve spent your life obsessed with food, eating, and weight, it may be worth a shot. #tbt
Image description: Colour photo of three small chocolate bowls, each filled with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, on white plates with blue and gold around the edges.
It sort of snuck up on me. I’ve known about “intuitive eating” for over 25 years. When I was a graduate student in Cambridge, MA, I used to browse the shelves at Wordsworth Books looking for something, anything, that might help me lose my obsession with food and weight and dieting. Like many of us, I tried diets, thinking that if I could just lose the weight I’d stop obsessing. That didn’t work. Even when I lost the weight I didn’t stop obsessing. A lot of the time I didn’t lose the weight anyway. And the attempts to lose it just increased my obsession with food.
At some point in the very early nineties, I stumbled upon a new approach — intuitive eating
I’ve been seeking out nutrition advice again, trying to manage what I can in a messy, unhappy situation with my left knee.
One of the interesting bits of research to come out in recent years is that as we age our need for protein goes up even as our need for calories goes down, if we intend to maintain muscle mass.
It’s as if, as with diabetics and insulin resistance, with age we’re protein resistant. We need to eat a lot more to get the same effect. When you add to that the need to eat fewer calories, that makes for a protein heavy diet.
Here’s an excerpt from a summary of the research published by MacMaster University:
“People who would like to become physically stronger should start with weight training and add protein to their diets, according to a comprehensive scientific review of research at McMaster University. The review finds that eating more protein, well past the amounts currently recommended, can significantly augment the effects of lifting weights, especially for people past the age of 40,”
A summary of the research from MacMaster University is here. The study itself is here.
I’ve blogged about this research before here, It’s striking both for the results and how they were obtained. The research doesn’t just look at young people, in particular it doesn’t just look at young men. It’s interesting that the research actually included middle aged men and women.
What the study shows is that there’s a sweet spot for protein consumption and it’s higher than many of us thought, 1.6 g of protein per day per kg of body weight. For me that’s a lot more protein than I currently eat. Eating more as a vegetarian is challenging. I’m working on it.
You can read the New York Times account of this study here.
Is this something you worry about? Think about? Track? How much protein do you aim to eat each day?