eating · fitness

On “Hegans” and “Shegans”–the gendering of a plant-based diet

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.

 

diets · eating · monthly check in · weight loss

Sam’s monthly check-in: What’s up, what’s down, the September version (CW: some discussion of weight loss)

    Bright red maple leaves against a blue sky. Photo by Unsplash.

    What’s up…

    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, 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.

    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.

    Wish me luck. 

    eating · fitness · food

    It only took 27 years, but now I’m a bona fide intuitive eater #tbt

    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

    FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

    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. 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

    View original post 1,147 more words

    eating · nutrition · sports nutrition

    Sam is thinking (again) about protein and aging muscles

    Bitmoji Sam in a purple tank top and shorts frolicking under the sunshine in a field full of flowers with bonus butterflies and mountains in the distance.

    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?

    athletes · eating · Guest Post · racing · running · sports nutrition · training

    Aimée crosses a line (Guest post)

    by Aimée Morrison

    My half-marathon is in two weeks. I hit peak training mileage and intensity and the onset of summer heat at the same time. Naturally, my hydration and fuel strategy fell apart, and I had to buy a fuel belt, which is something I swore I would never do, but here I am. I’m thinking about why this has me so freaked out. Because I’m pretty freaked out.

    The precipitating incident was last Sunday’s long run. My training group ran 20km and it was remarkably hot, all of sudden. Now, I had pretty easily run the same 20km the week before, and all the other runs before that. What happened this past Sunday, though, was: I didn’t have enough water in my tiny handheld bottle to compensate for the all the extra sweating the heat entailed, never mind the extra distance as we kept adding kilometers week after week. I also lost all my hunger cues because that’s what heat does to me and so I forgot to keep nibbling on my carb-and-chocolate baked bites that are my go-to run fuel. I also lost the pockets where I stashed these little snacks because I was now running without a jacket, so I hadn’t brought enough of them in any case. I just completely failed to hydrate and fuel anywhere near enough. I bonked at 18.5 km, and I had to stagger-walk the last 1.5km.

    Which is how I found myself at the Running Room the next day, staring at a wall of bottles and bags and belts and bladders and cringing. I bought gels and reconciled myself to paste-food instead of solids. I bought a belt. It’s got a zip pouch for my phone, a quick-grab strap system for gels, and two-quick draw holsters from which I can quickly extract either of two fluorescent yellow 10oz water bottles. It’s got a non-slip strap that doesn’t bounce around on my hips, and a spot I can stash Kleenexes. It’s a fancy and expensive fanny pack, basically. I hated it on sight.

    Well. Guess what? I’ve worn it out for my last three runs, and now I love it. It turns out that a steady stream of water and gels does keep me feeling strong through my whole run, and prevents me from feeling like trash in the hours afterwards. But I still feel really cringe-y about other people seeing me in it.

    The thing is, I think I look like a jackass, some cross between a soccer mom with a purse full of snacks, a norm-core 90s dad, and some kind of ridiculously self-important non-athlete with more money than muscle endurance. Yeah: full on imposter syndrome, rooted in some pretty judgey thinking about soccer moms and 90s dads, and probably some worries that I now look exactly like all those other middle-aged fanny-packed women runners out there in their tech gear chugging along the Sunday sidewalks in their groups. It’s great that 25 year old me used to roll my eyes at those women in their sun-visors but I should rethink this practice at 45, when I am now clearly also a middle-aged woman with a whole hat rack of sun visors (so practical!) chugging along the Sunday trails with my group. It would be best if I could not reflexively hate myself for occasionally looking like … what I am. Ah, internalized ageism.

    At the same time, I am kind of amazed at myself. How did I get here? This person with electrolyte sports drink in the left holster and water in the right? With gels on my hip that I greedily squeeze down my throat when I’m stopped at lights? But then I doubt myself: I’m just keeping a 7min/km pace—with walk breaks!—for a couple of hours in the middle of the city, not racing across the Sahara. Who do I think I am?

    Increasingly, I answer myself firmly: I am a runner, putting in 35-45 km per week, across five days a week, doing hills, doing sprints, running big distances over long hours, in groups, with my husband, by myself. On my bonk run, my FitBit indicated I had burned something like 1350 calories over those 20km. I am very much entitled to my Endurance Tap energy gels and my electrolyte drinks. I am a pale and scrawny middle-aged woman with strong looking legs and a weak looking chin. I wear a fuel belt. I am an athlete.

    You need a gel? I’ve got some extra, here in my fanny pack.

    Aimée Morrison is on sabbatical from professoring in new media studies in 2018 and trying to achieve some healthy ratio of words-written to miles-run. She’ll run her first half marathon in Ottawa on May 27. With the help of 4 Endurance Tap packs, one bottle of electrolyte replacement, and one bottle of water, she finished this week’s 20km run in record time and without bonking, not even a little.

    cycling · eating · feminism · fit at mid-life

    Happy book launch dance! Sam’s wonderful weekend

    Thanks Google for animating the images of me celebrating the book launch on Sarah’s front porch. Photos taken before breakfast and the drive to London.

    This was a great weekend. So good. Very very good.

    It began with an interview on live television, on Global TV’s morning show. Tracy will tell you more on Tuesday but for my part I need to let you know that the experience was actually fun. Even the make up part wasn’t awful. Tracy and I are getting pretty good at communicating our body positive, age inclusive fitness message!

    Here’s me wearing television make up. It was fine.

    And here’s a link to the interview. You can watch us here.

    Then I went to get a haircut and color with the wonderful Grace who also has her own TV show as it turns out.

    I’m so blonde. Spring is here!

    Then I went out in the evening to see a movie at the Hot Docs film festival. It was called “The Artist and the Pervert.” Here’s the description: “Georg is a famous Austrian composer, his wife Mollena a renowned American kink educator. Together they live in a public kinky relationship. This film documents their lives between perversion, art, love and radical self-determination.” I recommend it.

    Saturday began with breakfast at my favorite Toronto breakfast place, Bonjour Brioche. Here’s blogger Cate and our friend Steve basking under the patio heat lamps.

    I found out an interesting fact about Bonjour Brioche over breakfast. It turns out this is the location where they filmed the scene in the Handmaid’s Tale where Elisabeth Moss discovers that women no longer have credit when her credit card is declined. It’s a bit ironic to locals because this breakfast place is a cash-only establishment and never takes credit cards.

    After breakfast we drove to London for the London launch of our book. I’ll let Tracy tell you more about that too but it was a super moving event was standing room only they sold out of books but more importantly there was a real warmth and energy in the room

    Here are some photos of us signing books talking and standing around with our mothers. I love that photo best.

    Tracy reading. Me listening, hands on hips.
    Tracy and Sam carrying cupcakes and supplies.
    Tracy and me and our mothers.
    Signing all the books!

    On Saturday night I went out to BROADWAY BOUND!, put on by the Pride Men’s Chorus London. 

    My son sings in the choir. So much fun.

    Sunday was the second bike ride of the season. We ramped it up a little bit from 50 km last week to 60 km this week but I say that the wind was the bigger challenge rather than increased distance. The wind was pretty intense. We all got some Strava personal-bests on the downhill tailwind segments and really struggled into the wind on the way back. I was also sad to discover that the local Starbucks in Byron has closed and so we had to ride back under caffeinated and a little bit late for our movie.

    map

    Dinner was a quick slice of pizza and popcorn with the movie, not the healthiest choices, but hey Infinity Wars was a lot of fun.

    This chart might help!

    “I was explaining the MCU to my coworker and she asked me to just write it down for her.”

    From Reddit
    No #infintywar spoilers

    diets · eating · eating disorders · sports nutrition

    Chocolate: A yummy delicious treat

    I’ve had a bag of these in the house for awhile as my go to treat in lieu of dessert. They’re delicious.

    Unlike Tracy, I haven’t broken up with chocolate.

    But while the chocolates are often the yummiest part of my day, chocolates are not necessarily the healthiest thing I could eat. That’s fine by me. I didn’t choose them for health reasons. I was looking for the yum. They’re a treat

    Chocolate isn’t evil but it’s not exactly a health food ether. Here’s the nutritional facts.

    So these are an occasional treat, not a health food. I don’t eat them as meals. They’re pleasure. An indulgence.

    Maybe that’s a bit fast. Isn’t it dark chocolate supposed to be good for all that ails you? I have friends who eat dark chocolate to help with the common cold. Others who swear it helps with arthritis.

    Is it really good for you? The Guardian weighs in this week.

    They talk about the rebranding of chocolate as a health food and how that occurred.

    “Recent years have seen chocolate undergo another transformation, this time at the hands of branding experts. Sales of milk chocolate are stagnating as consumers become more health-conscious. Manufacturers have responded with a growing range of premium products promoted with such words as organic, natural, cacao-rich and single-origin. The packets don’t say so, but the message we’re supposed to swallow is clear: this new, improved chocolate, especially if it is dark, is good for your health. Many people have swallowed the idea that it’s a “superfood”. Except it isn’t. So how has this magic trick-like metamorphosis been achieved?”

    So chocolate is supposed to help with blood pressure, dementia, stroke risk and the common cold but the problem is the quality of the research which is almost all funded by the chocolate industry. Go read the Guardian story for details.

    James Fell in his anti dark chocolate rant gets it right, I think.

    …If you’re buying into the health washing while rationing nibbles as your reward for sticking to a soul-destroying diet, just stop. Eat a mostly healthy diet, and then when you feel like eating chocolate, you eat the shit out of it. None of this “I’ll just have a square of dark chocolate now and then” bullshit. Get some fucking Turtles, or a Caramilk bar, or a Crispy Crunch, or one of those triangle shaped Toblerone things. Get a Jersey Milk and dip that sucker in the Skippy peanut butter and say, “Mmmm … G-M-Oh-my-God-that-tastes-good.” Eat your favorite chocolate and LIVE, DAMMIT!

    Want to know more about chocolate? There’s a talk on the chemistry and physics of chocolate by the University of Guelph’s Prof. Alejandro Marangoni in Waterloo, Ont., by the Royal Canadian Institute for Science on April 18.

    Enjoy the talk and the occasional chocolate. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s a health food. Or worse, don’t eat dark chocolate in a medicinal manner not enjoying it at all.