TW: diet talk, disordered eating talk
Perhaps 95 percent of the time these days, a "what I eat in a day" consists of a diet-focused influencer modeling some sort of overly restrictive diet that amounts to a very meager number of calories, whether they disclose that number of calories or not. It happens often that, if they don't, someone will pull a citizen journalism and do the math. I love when this happens.
"What I eat in a day" videos were pretty common already when I first started lifting, and that was over seven years ago now. Now, they are insanely common and popular (this Victoria’s Secret Model’s video from two years ago has 11 million views). More recently, some YouTubers, most notably dietitian Abbey Sharp, have made a cottage industry out of dissecting/reacting to WIEIAD videos for their misguided assumptions, hand-wavey food superstitions, and terrible weight loss advice. But criticism has mounted: A year ago, the debate was more about whether influencers could “speak freely” about what they ate. Lately the tenor of the convo is more "this content format is bad, period," and that people should not do these kinds of posts at all.
When I first wrote about this, I focused mostly on how influencers (specifically, Blogilates) respond to criticism by saying "it's my body and I do what I want"—a defensive stance that is nearly impossible to argue with, on a personal level, and thus extremely common in the wellness industry. But on a behavior modeling level, it's little more than a distracting flourish. Of course you don't actually think people experience this on a pure entertainment level. Of course you are dog-whistling a message along the lines of "you too can have a body like me if you do as I do." Of course this is not factually true, for one billion reasons. But it is the cryptocurrency, the lite dogecoin, the NFT platform that the fitfluencer economy, nay, the diet and weight loss industry, relies upon.
Readers familiar with my (somewhat unhinged but nonetheless hopefully scratching at a truth) "Levels of Body Enlightenment" scale can more clearly locate the problem here: Most (popular, viral) WEIAID videos are made by hard 4s, people who may be projecting happiness, delight, and peace with their bodies and their relationship with food, but are pretty deep in "compliance with conventional beauty standards" mode, and with these videos they are influencing others to do the same.
Let me be clear: I think the genre is deeply poisoned. Even Ashley Graham unfortunately has some simply wild food beliefs.
However. A frequent question/request I get is, "I see that I'm supposed to eat 120 or 150 or 180 grams of protein in a day, but what does that look like? How do I do that, apart from drinking six scoops of protein powder or eating only a pound and a half of chicken breast?" It's also a problem I struggled with a lot when I first started lifting, and did a profound amount of trial and error, adding and subtracting foods in MyFitnessPal and googling "protein foods." Recipes, particularly ones that state macros, were, great, but how do you put it all together?? Another thing I did was watch WIEIAD videos what other people realistically eat. And when I say "people," I mean "normal, not-manipulative people with similar goals to mine," people who were doing strength training and trying to pack in protein as well as carbs and fats and calories generally to build their muscles. This directly enabled and helped me envision and eventually achieve the strong and beefy lifestyle that I now value and cherish so much.
I don't think the WIEIAD video needs me to defend it. But I like to properly locate a problem. I feel like the problem here is not sharing about eating, even a total picture of one day's worth of eating; I LIKE when people share about eating. I love to enjoy eating with others, even remotely. At the risk of saying something controversial, food is good; let us talk about food as much as possible. The problem is shitty diets, and worse, veiled aggressively restrictive, borderline-superstitious diets cloaked with "clean eating" and so forth.
Feeding ourselves is actually quite hard, and most of us need help. The official medical/governmental guidance on eating is “eat a balanced diet,” which is so vague as to be meaningless. And then at the other end of the spectrum we have specific meal plans, which in many states you can only legally get from licensed dietitians. Landing anywhere in the vast gulf between requires “nutrition education.” And then food stuff is also specific in a lot of ways: there are restrictions, there’s regional food availability, there's budget. Food modeling can actually very helpful for this, because there’s no one person whose approach is going to be practical for everyone. I constantly recommend the site Eat This Much for this kind of information, and to me the platonic ideal of a WIEIAD would be Eat This Much come to life. Why is that so hard?
It is good to point out obvious bad things wrong with things (let me be clear: This is true always.) It would be nice if, instead of dismissing this format as a vagary of bad wellness culture because a bunch of dodos have made it a weapon of insecurity, we recognized a potential other reason it is so popular, and made it a good resource. We talk about food plenty in bad and unhelpful ways; surely it should be possible to talk about it in good helpful ways instead.
But is this possible? Does ANYONE do this well currently? I have liked a lot of Natacha Oceane's WIEIAD videos because, especially lately, they are far more focused on what you might call "ingredient selection" than numbers or "diet techniques." Megsquats doesn't do this so much any more, though she often posts on Instagram about food. So consider this post, I guess, a summoning circle for normal days or even weeks of food, eaten with not-benighted aims. If you know of any, tell me about them.
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What subscribers received last week: a run-through of all the goals you can accomplish with lifting, including getting strong, building muscle (sometimes the same thing, but not always!), changing body composition, getting better at a sport, and even simply coasting/enjoying the vibes of working out. This post included all the major intermediate-level programs I know of and basically like, and all but a couple of them are free online. Here's a sneak peek of what they will be getting in the newsletter the weekend after this coming weekend.
An absolute blockbuster of a story this morning at Vox about steroid use among actors and celebrities, and more specifically, the network and means through which they get their hands on PEDs (hello mother, hello father...). And this is all even before we get into SARMs!
A cute interview with @britt_chownstrength reminded me of the #upliftandliftheavy hashtag, which is a good place to visit when you are gathering yourself to do The Hardest Lift (leaving the couch, shoutout los Beasties).
And, a promised recipe! I have two problems with the protein recipe world: one, many of them are so incredibly tight-fisted about macros. Take the average protein pancake recipe, which dares not include even a dusting of flour, even though flour is structurally very necessary in a food like this in order for it to not turn out as "sweet eggs." Two, sometimes in place of flour, these recipes will have oats. Why? Oats are barely different nutritionally than flour, and in terms of texture/structure, they do absolutely nothing. You are making "sweet eggs with oat lumps in them." No thanks. Put a little flour in your protein pancakes instead of oats (???) they will improve by miles.
Protein Pumpkin Pancakes (makes 1 serving/2 pancakes)
1.5 tbsp flour
1/4 cup pumpkin
1 scoop (20-25g) protein powder (I use vanilla but your choice)
healthy pinch salt
pinch baking powder
enough milk for it to come together (depends on the wetness of your pumpkin, but between a couple tablespoons and 1/4 cup, probably)
Protein: ~34g (more with protein gloop or Greek yogurt, which will lend this a “pumpkin cheesecake” air)
Instructions: Warm skillet over medium-low heat. Combine all ingredients and stir thoroughly with a fork until relatively smooth; a few small protein lumps are fine. Melt a pat of butter (or other pan grease of your choice) in the skillet, and pour in 1/2 the pancake batter. Wait til it bubbles on top, then flip. If you can poke through the surface of the pancake and it’s set but not runny, it’s done. Remove to plate. Top with peanut butter, maple syrup, protein gloop, Greek yogurt, fruit, whatever moves you.
In a classic case of “bro-mode gone awry,” some Berlin cops got in trouble for doing pushups on a Holocaust memorial. However, this reminded me pleasantly of the time I went up to the S train platform in Brooklyn, only to be enchanted by the sight of the conductor pumping out incline pushups on a bench while he waited for it to be time to drive the train away. Only in New York!
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Many followers of my Instagram story felt personally attacked by the Windows XP-related meme above. But even on an upper-body-only day, a little lower body cardio warmup will enhance your gains, per a new study, because blood flow; another brick in my cardio wall!!
I came across this piece on the metaphysics of the hangover, which focuses on the ways hangovers are like other taxing experiences at the expense of our health. It made me think about the specific kind of hangover that comes from panic attacks, and why we don't have so much moral panic about the long-term health costs of stress and trauma as we do substances, or body composition! Anyway, it also made me think of this nice Letter of Recommendation for hangovers.
Thank you for reading this newsletter, which is roughly 15% shorter than usual! All typos were to make sure you were paying attention.
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