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 someone 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?

fitness · food · habits · sports nutrition

Sam Tried for Ten: A Week in Review

The original idea? To try to eat ten servings of fruits and vegetables a day. See Sam tries for ten.

I was curious to see how I’d do with a positive eating goal and I thought I’d share my thoughts and results with you.

Short version: While initial enthusiasm helps, it might have been too ambitious a goal for a busy work week!

My report card:

Day 1: Tuesday

Vegetable stew: sweet potato, onions, peas; Side of mixed veggies: green beans, cauliflower, broccoli; banana, Bites of apple, zucchini noodles, asparagus, artichoke hearts

Score: 11/10

But it was Day 1!

Day 2: Wednesday

Orange juice, Eggplant, Okra , Zucchini noodles, Bok choy, banana

Score: 6/10

Day 3: Thursday

veggie burger, hummus, veggie ramen: mushrooms, peppers, Bok Choy

Score: 6/10

Day 4: Friday

Melon, strawberries, grapes, lettuce, beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, tomatoes, berries, arugula

10/10

Day 5: Saturday

Orange Juice, mango, orange

Score 3/10

Day 6: Sunday

Orange juice, veggie fresh rolls with broccoli slaw and carrot sticks

Score: 3/10

Day 7: Monday

Edamame, orange, carrot sticks, red peppers, tomatoes, kale, green onions

Score: 7/10

Lessons learned:

The first day of anything new thing is great. So much motivation!

Also, I don’t do that badly on my weekdays without much effort. Thanks GoodFood. I do the vegetarian prefab meal kits three nights a week and they’re loaded with vegetables.

But weekends will take work! The main take away is that that’s where I need to put some effort in if I want to get enough fruits and vegetables.

Do you track fruits and vegetables? Do you get ten servings a day?

Carrots and artichokes,
Photo by David Vázquez on Unsplash
food · nutrition · sports nutrition

What is healthy eating anyway?

I don’t usually share tweets and Twitter threads but sometimes they are so good you need to make an exception.

This thread from the Fat Nutritionist came to my attention via David. Thks David!

“I suspect that like 95% of the food choices people make (when they have the luxury of choice) are purely symbolic. I suspect this because “How does this food affect your body’s functioning?” is a completely new idea to nearly everyone I ask it of.”

Anyway, go read the whole thing. It’s great.

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.

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.

food · nutrition · sports nutrition · weight lifting

Want to keep muscle after 40?: Eat all the protein and lift all the things

A cricket protein bar
A cricket protein bar

Researchers at nearby MacMaster University set out to do a meta analysis in search of an answer to the question of whether protein consumption made a difference to ordinary adults over 40 who set out to gain muscle.

What’s nice, from this blog’s perspective, about the studies is that many of them included women.

Gretchen Reynolds wrote about their research in the New York Times.

Lift Weights, Eat More Protein, Especially if You’re Over 40

“They wound up with 49 high-quality past experiments that had studied a total of 1,863 people, including men and women, young and old, and experienced weight trainers as well as novices. The sources of the protein in the different studies had varied, as had the amounts and the times of day when people had downed them.

To answer the simplest question of whether taking in more protein during weight training led to larger increases in muscle size and strength, the researchers added all of the results together.And the answer was a resounding yes. Men and women who ate more protein while weight training did develop larger, stronger muscles than those who did not.”

How much protein? 1.6 grams per day per kilo of bodyweight. That’s well over the recommended daily amount of protein.

When? It didn’t matter when in the day people are the extra protein. So you don’t need to fuss about before or after workout or other special timing.

What kind of protein? That didn’t matter either. You can eat it in the form of animal protein or vegan protein. You can drink protein shakes. It’s all good.

See the scientific article here.

I haven’t tried the cricket protein bar just yet.