No, Pubic Hair is Not Dirty

'The Union of Earth and Water' by Peter Paul Rubens

‘The Union of Earth and Water’ by Peter Paul Rubens

When I was ‘coming of age’ in the 80’s and 90’s, pubic hair was sort of a non-issue. We shaved enough to not show when we wore our swim suits, but that was the extent of it. I don’t remember ever feeling like pubic hair was unfeminine or undesirable, and I certainly didn’t think it was dirty – it was just a natural part of adult human bodies.

I never even really noticed that pubic hair removal was becoming more of a ‘thing’. I do remember raising an eyebrow when I first heard of Brazilian waxing, but since I wasn’t interested it quickly faded from my consciousness. I assumed it was a small niche market, as I couldn’t imagine the expense and discomfort of the upkeep was something most people would acquiesce to. As it grew in popularity, I was deep in my work as a pit bull rescuer, and then motherhood, and it just wasn’t on my radar.

Over the last couple years, as my tween daughters have brought more and more popular culture to my attention, I have begun to notice the change in the perception of pubic hair as something undesirable. My first realization that the complete removal of pubic hair has actually become The Norm was listening to an Amy Schumer bit on the radio, wherein she described the cultural expectation that women be hairless, and a session with her waxer. It dawned on me that our culture’s view of pubic hair has shifted fundamentally, and I began to notice the language people used to describe it. “Gross”, “dirty”, “disgusting’, “smelly”, “unfeminine”. (Those words were in no short supply in the comments on my facebook page when I shared Dr. Jen Gunter’s post on the topic of pubic hair). Ads for pubic hair removal promising a ‘clean’ look (the implication being that the hair is dirty, or that the hair makes the woman dirty). In short, our culture now EXPECTS women to be hairless, and deviation from that expectation is considered dirty and unfeminine.

How did this happen? We were making progress in the late 60’s, the 70’s, even into the 80’s. Womens’ bodies were held to much less stringent ‘standards of perfection’ as women burned their bras, let their hair down and embraced sexual liberation. We were ‘allowed’ to be fully sexual adult human beings (oh Madonna, I will never forget the torpedo bra). And pubic hair is a characteristic of sexual maturity. It was normal. Everybody knew it was normal. Every sexually mature adult had it. No big deal. I may have been insecure about my thighs, or my height, or my acne, but I don’t remember ever being insecure about my pubic hair.

Body hair, and more specifically pubic hair, is an indicator of sexual maturity. Not all cultures remove pubic hair or see it as undesirable (see: our own culture 30 years ago). Pubic hair on a woman indicates that she is sexually mature. So what does it signify when we associate the REMOVAL of pubic hair with ‘femininity’? (1) That a fully sexually mature woman is undesirable? That to be ‘feminine’ a woman must resemble a pre-pubescent child? That a woman’s body is not acceptable the way it is naturally? (2,3) Those are certainly the messages I glean from this cultural expectation placed upon women.

And what of the perception that pubic hair is “dirty”, or that pubic hair signifies dirty genitals? This is perhaps the most unfortunate belief to stem from this cultural expectation. Pubic hair serves a purpose. Like the hair in our noses and ears, it actually PROTECTS the delicate skin and mucous membranes of the genitals from dirt and bacteria we may be exposed to in the environment. There’s a reason we’ve retained pubic hair even as we’ve evolved to be more hairless elsewhere – it provides a biological benefit. And removing it can open you up to bacterial and fungal infection and faster spread of STDs (should you be exposed). (4)

Hey – if you enjoy removing your pubic hair, more power to you. This post isn’t meant to judge your personal choice. We need to STOP associating hairlessness with cleanliness though – not only is it inaccurate, the truth is that the hair is there to keep you cleaner. And we need to recognize the culturally imposed idea that hairlessness is ‘feminine’, as the truth is exactly opposite: pubic hair signifies sexual and reproductive maturity. Sexual and reproductive maturity are what makes a woman a woman and not a little girl. Sexual and reproductive maturity are what make a woman truly feminine, as before sexual and reproductive maturity there is much less physical distinction between the sexes. Promoting a hairless ideal as ‘feminine’ infantilizes women. We need to do better for our daughters. They deserve to know that their bodies are healthy and desirable in their natural state as they mature into adults. That their bodies are not ‘gross’ the way they naturally are. And if they want to remove their hair, great! Lets just make it clear, to them and to ourselves, that it is a cultural fashion trend, and not something they must do in order to be ‘feminine’ or ‘clean’. They are feminine simply by growing into a gloriously sexually mature woman. And hair does not make them dirty, it in fact helps them stay clean. And our sons deserve to know what women’s bodies look like in their natural state, and that that natural state is not ‘dirty’ or ‘gross’.

This fashion trend is another way our culture tells us our bodies are unacceptable the way they are, and marketers have created mythology about cleanliness to further shame us into giving them our money. If it’s something you want to do, and you’re fully aware of the cultural issues and the potential health risks, then wax away. But lets stop with the ‘dirty’, ‘gross’ and ‘unfeminine’ language. Because it’s just plain not true.



1. Toerien, Merran, and Sue Wilkinson. “Gender and body hair: Constructing the feminine woman.” Women’s Studies International Forum. Vol. 26. No. 4. Pergamon, 2003.
2. Chapkis, Wendy, and Gon Buurman. Beauty secrets: Women and the politics of appearance. Boston: South End Press, 1986.
3. Ussher, Jane M. The psychology of the female body. Taylor & Frances/Routledge, 1989.
4. Trager, Jonathan DK. “Pubic hair removal—pearls and pitfalls.” Journal of pediatric and adolescent gynecology 19.2 (2006): 117-123.
5. Tiggemann, Marika, and Suzanna Hodgson. “The hairlessness norm extended: Reasons for and predictors of women’s body hair removal at different body sites.” Sex Roles 59.11-12 (2008): 889-897.
See also:

How to REALLY Succeed With Your New Years Resolutions!

It’s that time of year again! When we take stock of our failures and shortcomings and resolve to do better in the new year!

Just kidding. Some people do that but I sure don’t, and I hope you guys don’t either.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the spirit of fresh starts and renewed motivation though, and those things aren’t bad at all! So if you’re taking the beginning of the new year as an opportunity to make some new goals and commitments, here are some tips for maximizing your chances of success.

1. Be realistic.

Set goals that will work with your schedule and lifestyle. Do you work full time? The time commitment involved in training for an Ironman Triathlon probably won’t work with your schedule. But a Sprint or Oly triathlon could. This seems like a no-brainer, but I think lots of us fall into the trap of biting off more than we can chew, and then getting discouraged when we aren’t able to meet our own high expectations. Discouragement tends to translate to giving up. Set yourself up for success by setting achievable goals in the short term! Succeeding will bolster our confidence and motivate you to set more goals.

2. Be specific.

We tend to make fairly vague resolutions like ‘lose weight’, ‘get in shape’ or ‘eat healthier’. Nebulous targets like this don’t provide much structure though, and are easy to veer away from. Make a specific goal like ‘lose 30 pounds’, ‘exercise 3 times a week for 40 minutes’ or ‘eat 5 servings of vegetables a day’.

3. Make a plan.

Once you have a specific goal, outline a plan to reach it. Give yourself a realistic time-frame, and work up to your goals over time!

4. Plan in steps.

Jumping right in to new behaviors can be overwhelming and exhausting. If your goals is to exercise 3 days a week for 40 minutes, start with 10 minutes twice a week and add duration over time. If it’s to eat 5 servings of vegetables a day, start with 1 or 2 servings a day and work up. Drastic, sudden changes are less likely to become habit than small, sustainable changes that compound over time.

5. Monitor your progress.

Keep a journal of your success! Track weekly or even daily to document the challenges you’ve met and overcome. Seeing your progress in this objective manner can be very motivating. We tend not to notice our progress as much subjectively, as changes happen slowly and we get used to them and don’t recognize how profoundly those small changes add up over time.

6. Be flexible.

You may hit a roadblock you can’t figure out how to overcome. Having the flexibility to alter your plan and goal will allow you to navigate challenges and roadblocks without feeling like you’ve failed. For instance, if your goal is to run a 5k, but you injure your foot, being flexible to change, rather than quit, your training to allow your foot to heal will help you maintain your cardiovascular conditioning and endurance.

7. Allow for setbacks.

Bad news. Sometimes things don’t work out as planned. Sometimes we just miss the mark. It happens. It happens to everyone! Re-framing setbacks as learning opportunities, rather than failures, keeps you on the road to success.

8. Focus more on how far you’ve come, and less on how far you still have to go.

If you’ve set a lofty goal, sometimes fixating on how much further you still have to go to meet it can feel overwhelming and discouraging. Recognizing and celebrating each success can remind you how capable you are. It may take time, but you will get there if you keep moving forward. Getting mired in frustration over the pace of your progress won’t help at all. Focus on the positive! Keep going! You’ll get there in time.

9. Enlist social support.

Seek out a supportive community to cheer you on. One of my collaborative habit based coaching programs with Sean Flanagan, for instance! One of the blessings of the internet age is that finding people with similar goals and interests is as easy as typing a few words into a search bar. Follow supportive people on twitter and facebook, find chat rooms and forums with relevant themes and find people locally who have similar interests. The other side of this coin is that it’s easy to get caught up with people who will try to tear you down and undermine your progress. Be aware of the way people talk to you, and remove yourself from negative situations and people. They will not help you.

10. Be patient!

I saved this one for last, because it’s not only the most important, but the hardest. Humans want what we want NOW. Being able to step back and apply patience objectively is a skill that must be learned through practice. Remind yourself that changes happen slowly over time sometimes. That doesn’t mean they are not worthwhile or profound. Patience is a superpower, and many times it is THE factor that will determine success or failure. Practice every day.

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the last several years is how fundamentally important it is to zoom out and take a more reasoned, balanced approach to behavior change. Trying to CHANGE EVERYTHING all at once rarely works out well, and expecting things to always work according to plan is a recipe for disappointment. Humans, and life, are imperfect. Take the long view, worry less and enjoy the moment more. As long as your trajectory is forward, you’ll get there eventually.

Need some ideas for reasoned and balanced approaches to behavior change? Here’s my top three ‘Resolution Suggestions':

1. Learn to cook, or cook better.

Preparing more of your meals at home is the best way to improve the quality of your diet. Our culture has lost touch with food and food preparation in the last few decades. For many people, this means either re-learning how to cook, or completely starting from scratch. I had to change the way I thought about and prepared food when I began making changes to improve my health. I relied on watching America’s Test Kitchen on PBS and Cooking Light magazine to learn cooking skills and cookbooks like Super Natural Cooking for ideas to incorporate more fresh foods into my diet.

 2. Walk more.

It really doesn’t get simpler than walking. People underestimate the power of walking to improve health, quality of life and fitness level. Read my blog post on Walking for Health and Fitness to learn more about how powerful can be, and how to create a walking-based fitness program. Pick up a pedometer or fitbit to see how much you’re currently walking and make reasonable, sustainable changes that will dramatically improve your quality of life.

3. Get more, and better, sleep.

Most of us don’t get enough and it manifests as weight gain, illness and decreased quality of life. A few simple changes can improve the quality of your sleep, and your life. Turn off electronics an hour before bed, get some natural light early in the day, and reduce your consumption of caffeine and other stimulants later in the day. If you still struggle with insomnia, I highly recommend The Promise of Sleep by Dr. William Dement to get a handle on what may be causing it and finding resources to resolve it. Improving sleep quality may be the single most powerful change you can make to improve your health.

New Years’ can provide inspiration and motivation for making positive lifestyle changes, and stepping back and taking a sustainable approach can help ensure that those changes are successful and long-term. Small changes really do compound over time, and if you’re able to stay the course you will be able to look back next year and see just how much you’ve accomplished. 2015 is going to be a great year!

Sean and I will be enrolling two new group coaching programs to start right after New Years, so get on the waiting list now!

 Originally posted December 27, 2013

5 Things They’re Not Telling You About Sugar

It seems like you can’t turn around anymore without being confronted with another shocking news story or blog post about the evils of sugar. It’s almost exactly like the 80’s and 90’s, when you couldn’t turn around without bumping into another shocking news story or diet book about the dangers of dietary fat. Thank goodness we figured out that it’s not fat that’s the issue, it’s sugar, right? Whew, the real culprit has been identified. Now we can simply eliminate sugar and all our problems will go away. It’s not like we’re oversimplifying the issue like we did with fat or anything. Not like that at all. We totally learned from our previous mistaken oversimplification and it’s repercussions. Totally.

For all the alarming news stories and blog posts about sugar, there are a few things the media and bloggers aren’t telling us. I’ve compiled 5 of them.

1. The intake of added sugars has been declining steadily since 1999.

“Americans are eating sugar in unprecedented amounts! I heard it on the news!”

Actually, according to this study, the average consumption of added sugar had decreased by 24% by 2008 since it’s peak in 1999. That’s a pretty significant decrease. It’s mostly due to decreased soda consumption, but sugar from almost all sources has decreased. The decrease is across all ethnicities and age groups. We’re consuming less added sugar. Still more than we need, but significantly less than we were. Diabetes rates continue to rise in spite of reduced sugar consumption. As do obesity rates. There goes the hypothesis that sugar causes diabetes and obesity. Perhaps there’s something else at work? Or maybe more than one thing? Nah, if it were more than one thing diet book authors couldn’t oversimplify the issue and sell sugar free diets, like they sold fat free diets in the 80’s and 90’s. We smart humans would never repeat past mistakes. Right?

Next time you’re reading an article about how much more sugar we’re eating now, check the citations to see if the author is using pre-2000 statistics. Sugar consumption rose until 1999 and then began to fall. Many sugar scare-mongers continue to rely on pre-2000 statistics though.

2. Sugar is not addictive to humans.

I know what you’re going to say. “But Amber, there’s that rat study where food was withheld for 12 hours, and then 4 hours into their normal active period they were given free access to sugar and chow, and they ended up preferring the sugar! And that other rat experiment done by a couple college students that showed oreos affect the same brain pleasure centers as cocaine!!! CLEARLY sugar is a highly addictive evil substance!”

Where to begin. How about with this review of the actual human studies in this area? A review which concluded that animal models of sucrose addiction (like the rat studies above) aren’t supported by human studies, and that there is no evidence in the available literature (of which there is quite a bit) that sugar is addictive to humans.  Turns out we’ve actually examined the possibility of sugar addiction in humans and it hasn’t panned out. Interesting.

Not to mention that when you deprive rats of food, they end up overeating energy dense foods (like sugar) when given the chance. That’s not at ALL like what happens when people go on diets that restrict their calories and/or food groups, and inevitably end up binging. Not like that at all.

This study supports the conclusion that sugar itself is not addictive, and suggests instead that it is the behavior of eating that is addictive. I propose that when a problem is behavioral, it is best addressed by a behavioral-based therapy (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) rather than a ‘therapy’ (such as a ‘Sugar Detox’) that instead targets a macronutrient that has been shown repeatedly to not be addictive. What I’m saying is that YES, some people experience addiction-like symptoms with food – but the evidence suggests that it is a behavioral issue, not a physiological one.

And none of this begins to address the vilification of things that ‘light up the brain’s pleasure centers’. Our nation’s Puritanical origins clearly mandate that things that light up the brain’s pleasure centers are BAD. You know, things like sex, food, laughter, singing and dancing…things that lead to babies, and getting enough calories to survive, and forming social bonds with other humans…following this logic, those things must be evil because they light up the brain’s pleasure centers. I guess the pleasure centers of our brain were put there by the devil to tempt us into behaviors that would propagate our species, or something like that? Can’t have that. Can’t have that at all.

3. Sugar is beneficial in some contexts.

What? Surely that can’t be right? Mercola Natural News Food Babe A random blogger A Facebook meme my trainer told me sugar is toxic! TOXIC I tell you. No way can it ever be beneficial. That’s like saying Vitamin A (toxic in high doses) or water (toxic in high doses) can be beneficial! There’s just no way that something can be both toxic and beneficial. It’s not like dose and context are ever important!

Actually, there’s a significant body of evidence that sugar is beneficial (beneficial, meaning improved performance) in the context of high intensity and endurance exercise. Sugar is also used therapeutically (as part of therapy) in cases of several gastrointestinal conditions, starvation recovery (including during eating disorder treatment) and cancer. It’s called Parenteral Feeding and involves administering a solution of glucose (sugar, folks), amino acids and lipids via an intravenous drip. Sugar is beneficial and even therapeutic in the right dose and context.

4. Sugar doesn’t actually make you fat.

I know what you’re thinking – well since we know it’s not fat, it must be sugar! We’re fat, we eat sugar, case closed! Right? (Just kidding, I know most of you aren’t actually thinking that.)

Well, as I said above, obesity rates continue to rise in spite of falling sugar intake. Lets take a closer look. This review of epidemiological and metabolic literature concluded that “high intake of sugar is negatively associated with indexes of obesity”, meaning that more sugar was actually associated with lower rates of obesity. Note that this doesn’t mean sugar is protective, simply that it doesn’t appear to be the cause of obesity. Perhaps there is more to the story? This review, while calling for more study of specific forms of carbohydrate in relation to satiety, concludes that “there is little evidence that sugars have direct negative effects on body weight control”. Both of these reviews support the American Heart Association’s conclusion that excess sugar in the diet can be problematic not because it is inherently obesogenic but because “high-sugar foods, which are sweet and calorie dense, may increase calorie consumption and lead to weight gain.” In other words, it’s not the sugar itself, but rather the excess calories from sugary foods that produces weight gain.

All of which brings me to my final THING THEY’RE NOT TELLING YOU ABOUT SUGAR:

5. A lot of the data on sugar is confounded by excess calorie intake.

This review of the scientific literature on the association of sugar and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) concluded that “the apparent association between indexes of liver health and fructose or sucrose intake appear to be confounded by excessive energy intake. Overall, the available evidence is not sufficiently robust to draw conclusions regarding effects of fructose, HFCS, or sucrose consumption on NAFLD. ” What this means is that the science showing that sugar was associated with NAFLD ALSO showed that excess calorie intake was associated with NAFLD, and that the researchers did not believe there was sufficient evidence to conclude that sugar was causative. Call me crazy, but I suspect further investigation will yield similar findings in relation to other diseases. I have a hard time believing that this phenomenon (excess calorie intake as confounding factor) is specific to just the studies of NAFLD.

Which, again, recalls the conclusion of the American Heart Association that “high-sugar foods, which are sweet and calorie dense, may increase calorie consumption.” Perhaps it’s not the sugar itself, but the excess calories? Which would explain why diabetes and obesity are not going away as our sugar intake falls. We are eating more calories than ever. So while we repeat the mistakes of our past and fixate on a single macronutrient, it’s likely we are failing, once again, to address the true problem, and it will be that much longer until we start to make progress on reducing disease and obesity rates.

The Take-Home Message

Sugar is the latest scapegoat in a long history of macronutrient vilification. Public health agencies have been giving us the very sound advice to eat a balanced, calorie appropriate diet, with sweets in moderation, for decades. This does not mean SUGAR IS THE DEVIL NEVER LET IT PASS YOUR LIPS! It also does not mean EATING NOTHING BUT SUGAR IS A FANTASTIC IDEA! Both of those are extreme interpretations of the word moderation. What it means is that some sugar, in the context of a balanced, calorie appropriate diet, is fully within healthy eating guidelines for the general population (if you have a medical condition, follow your medical professional’s dietary advice). Some people seem to fixate on the ‘sweets in moderation’ part of the recommendations, approaching it with all (nothing but sugar!) or nothing (sugar is the DEVIL!) thinking, and ignore the more important ‘balanced, calorie appropriate’ part of them.

No, you do not need to eat sugar to be healthy. You do not need to avoid it altogether to be healthy, either.

It seems fairly evident, though, that you DO need to pay some attention to how much food you eat in general to stay healthy. And you need to make sure you’re eating a variety of foods and macronutrients, as well. You should also exercise and get enough sleep, but that’s a post for another day.

Now, some people will interpret this blog post as saying YOU SHOULD EAT LOTS AND LOTS OF SUGAR. Most of you won’t, but there are always a few, aren’t there? No, I will reiterate the American Heart Association‘s conclusion:

“To improve the overall nutrient density of the diet and to help reduce the intake of excess calories, individuals should be sure foods high in added sugar are not displacing foods with essential nutrients or increasing calorie intake.”

In other words, make sure you’re not eating so much sugar that you’re missing out on important nutrients or consuming excess calories.That sounds an awful lot like moderation to me, no?


Thinking of going on another diet? Screw that! Check out The Habit Project, my collaborative coaching program with Sean Flanagan, for a habit-based approach to health and fitness.




Introducing The Habit Project

Sean Flanagan and I have been at it again, thinking up new ways to foster behavior change. We’ve created a new program, and it’s a new kind of program. Probably different than any program you’ve participated in before.

We wanted to do something different from our Four Month Fat Loss Program. Not that there’s anything wrong with our Fat Loss Program! It’s actually awesome, and it’s not going anywhere! But we wanted to give you guys another option, because we know our Fat Loss program isn’t right for everyone.

Enter: the Habit Project.

The Habit Project is focused specifically – and solely – on the small, day to day habits that impact our bodies and our health. Within the Habit Project, each small team supports one another in the systematic implementation of new behaviors, focusing on one habit for two weeks, before moving onto the next.

Unlike our Fat Loss Program, there are no meal or workout plans. In fact, it’s up to you, with the support of your coaches and teammates, to decide the specific ways you are going to modify the habits to work with your life and schedule.

Which Program is Right for You?

So, you’ve decided you want to invest in one of our coaching programs – now the task of figuring out which one! I’ve put together a short quiz that will help you make that determination. Just answer the following questions honestly, and use your answers to help steer you toward the program that makes the most sense for you.

1. How does the prospect of following a meal plan make you feel?
a. Bored and rebellious.
b. Relieved!

2. Do you feel like you’ve got a pretty good exercise routine going?
a. Yes, maybe just needs a few tweaks.
b. No. Help me!

3. How do you do your best work?
a. I like to work collaboratively with others!
b. Everyone needs to leave me alone so I can focus!

4. How do you feel about calorie tracking?
a. Never again as long as I live.
b. I dig it! Or at least tolerate it.

If you answered mostly As, The Habit Project may be a better fit for you. Mostly Bs, and you should check out the Fat Loss Program. If you’re still not sure, feel free to ask for guidance! In both programs, our focus is long term behavior change. The Habit Project takes a longer view, moves at your individual pace and allows you to call the shots. The Fat Loss Program is more structured (at least in the beginning) and works in a shorter time frame. The end result – behavior change – is the same, just different approaches.

Click here to check out the Habit Project.

Click here to check out the Fat Loss Program.

Sean and I are looking forward to working with you!


Granola and Parenting

I saw this Nature’s Path granola commercial today while I was watching TV on the treadmill at the Y. It kind of made me want to vomit, and as I’ve stewed on it I’ve gotten more and more disgusted with it.

It’s a scene of a couple eating breakfast (granola). Their teenage son comes in and grabs the cereal box and pours the cereal right into his mouth. The Dad says ‘There’s milk you know’, and the son grabs the milk carton and drinks out of it. The Dad shakes his head and asks ‘Where did we go wrong?’. The Mom replies ‘He’s eating organic. We did good.’

The message here is crystal clear: feeding your kids organic makes you a good parent. This is an attitude that is rampant in diet culture. How many times have you seen someone post something like this posted somewhere:

“I was at the grocery store this morning with my kids and there was a mom with two little children in line behind me. Her cart was full of nothing but processed junk. Her poor children are missing out on so much, and they have no idea! My heart is just breaking for them!”

While the people who post things like this present their feelings as concern for the poor little children, what their words actually belie is an elitist and arrogant attitude. The message they are really sending is “look at what a GOOD parent I am and what a BAD parent that other mom is. I am better than her”. It’s incredibly obnoxious, and a really bad example to set for their own children.

Eating the ‘right’ way (organic, clean, paleo, vegan, whatever the diet du jour is) is equated with moral superiority. This isn’t a healthy way of thinking about food. It’s actually disordered. A person with an eating disorder has tied their identity to their food choices. When they eat the right way they are good. When they eat the wrong way they are bad. Fixating on what other people eat is also disordered, as is judging a person good or bad based on their food choices. This is too much power and morality associated with food choices.

This commercial is offensive to me because it is normalizing the attitude that feeding your kids ‘right’ makes you a better parent than people who feed their kids ‘wrong’. It’s normalizing the association of morality with food choices. The subtext of the commercial is that people who don’t feed their kids organic are ‘doing it wrong’, or are morally inferior parents. This is disordered thinking.

It’s also incredibly elitist. Not everyone has the option of feeding their children organic, but this commercial sends a quiet message that it’s ok to judge those who can’t afford or don’t have access. That if you have the resources to afford organic and the access, you are a better parent. Buying organic makes you good.

And that is ABSURD. There are many, many ways to be a good parent – buying organic is not one of them. There are plenty of good parents who feed their kids conventionally produced food. There are good parents who take their kids to McDonalds. Having the resources and access to feed your kids organic means…you have the resources and access to feed your kids organic. That’s all. Congratulations. You are fortunate. Very fortunate. Being fortunate does not make you better, though.

And that’s why I find this commercial offensive. Not only does it promote and normalize disordered thinking, it also feeds into elitist attitudes and fuels the mommy wars. All that in one commercial? Yes. I don’t think I’ll be buying much Nature’s Path in the future.

Sugar Addiction and Food Obsession

This is what a healthy relationship with food looks like:

You enjoy a wide variety of foods. You fill your diet with lots of different foods from every food group, so that you meet your nutrient needs through variety. You do not force yourself to eat foods you don’t enjoy (or that you have a medical reason to avoid).

Sometimes you eat purely for pleasure (like that cupcake, or glass of wine) but most of the time the choices you make fulfill both your nutrient and pleasure needs. You eat a salad because you WANT it, not because it’s what you think you SHOULD eat. And if you don’t want salad, you have something else. When you eat purely for pleasure, you savor the experience and then move on. You don’t assign shame or guilt to your food choices.

You eat when you are hungry, and you eat foods that nourish you, make you feel awesome, and help you meet your goals. You also realize that there is no such thing as perfection, and that your habits over time are far more important than any specific food you do or don’t eat. You understand that one meal doesn’t cancel out all the other meals you eat over the course of a week. You understand that there is a lot of room for flexibility within the context of a balanced, varied diet.


Now, I frequently get comments like:

“Eating whatever you want whenever you want isn’t going to result in healthy lifestyle or longevity. Eating Doritos every day would land you in the hospital!”


“Sugar lights up the reward centers of the brain, which makes you want more sugar. Copious amounts of sugar is really bad for you!”

The people making these comments have a disordered idea of eating. They may not have an eating disorder, but they are making these comments from a place of fear. They are projecting their own fears and beliefs, about how they think they would behave if they allowed themselves to eat what they want, onto other people.

Do you see how the belief underlying both of these comments is that if a person eats what they want to eat, they will only eat ‘junk’, and eat excessive amounts of it? In the first comment, there is an assumption that if they ate what they wanted, they would eat Doritos every day. And in the second, there is the assumption that if they allowed themselves free rein, they would overeat sugar.

Both of these assumption belie a disordered relationship with food. Because you see, if these people had a healthy relationship with food, they would understand that they would be able to eat Doritos and sugar in moderation, enjoy them, and move on.

The answer here isn’t to ‘force’ oneself to eat a certain way. The answer is to address the disordered relationship with food. Because when their relationship with food is healthy, they won’t be compelled to eat Doritos and sugar in excess. They will be able to eat them in moderation, freely, and without forcing or feeling deprived.

Because that is what a healthy relationship with food is like.

I believe that the entire diet industry is deeply disordered, so these disordered ways of thinking about food are normalized and even promoted as healthy. Far too many people believe that the way they think about and approach food and eating is normal and healthy, when in fact it is disordered and destructive. The diet industry is dragging us all down into a spiral of disorder, shame and obsession. And telling us all the while that it is normal and healthy.

Need some help healing your relationship with food? Check out these free resources, and consider seeking out treatment from a qualified Eating Disorder professional:

ED Referral

How to Deal With Setbacks

Another vlog for you!


How to be an ALPHA MALE

Here's what comes up in a google image search of 'alpha male'.

Here’s what comes up in a google image search of ‘alpha male’.

There is a growing movement of men who want to ‘take back masculinity’, to reassert their biological directive to be ALPHA MALES. It’s easy to find ebooks on ‘Making Any Woman Want to Sleep With You’, ‘Become The Alpha’ etc. There are even yearly conferences where men gather to learn from other men how to be MANLY MEN, free the inner caveman, dominate women and control their manly destiny.

As best as I can tell there are 3 main desirable characteristics of ALPHA MALES:

  1. Alpha males GET LAID OFTEN.

  2. Alpha males are DESIRED by women and RESPECTED by men.

  3. Alpha males LOOK LIKE MEN, with broad shoulders and visible muscle mass.

Now, I happen to embody all of these characteristics. I’m happily married and no one’s complaining in the bedroom, if you know what I mean. Wink wink, nudge nudge. I’ve had more than my share of propositions from women, and I have a large following of respectful men. Many a dude bro and low-carb blogger has told me I LOOK LIKE A MAN. Apparently I am a ALPHA MALE. So, I decided to write a guide to being an ALPHA MALE. You can thank me later.

Here are some of the keys to being an ALPHA MALE:

  1. ALPHA MALES make the people around them feel safe. This is probably the most important aspect of being an ALPHA MALE. ALPHA MALES create this environment of safety by defending other people against bullying, aggression and ridicule. If the ALPHA MALE sees another person being made fun of, he jumps in and STICKS UP FOR THEM. When people feel worried and stressed, the ALPHA MALE determines how he can help them out, and then does it. This usually means ASKING the person what would help the most. The Alpha Male is the one who looks out for the safety and well being of the group. The Alpha Male is the one people look to when they are scared. The ALPHA MALE sets himself up as a bastion of safety by simply being calm and kind and protective of his friends and other vulnerable people.

  2. ALPHA MALES do not create needless conflict. ALPHA MALES don’t run around starting arguments. ALPHA MALES mind their own business and create an atmosphere of calmness and safety for the people around them. An ALPHA MALE won’t back down from a threat to the safety and well being of a vulnerable person or themselves, but they don’t go out trying to manufacture conflict. ALPHA MALES also don’t bother with other males who are lower in the hierarchy. Sure, those lesser males will come around thumping their chests and boasting about how manly they are, but an ALPHA MALE knows these lesser males aren’t a threat and doesn’t waste his time engaging with them – unless they threaten or ridicule another person. Then the ALPHA MALE will come to the defense of the other person.

  3. A true ALPHA MALE does not need to tell anyone he is an ALPHA MALE. It is clear from the moment he walks into a room that he is an ALPHA MALE. He brings with him an air of calmness and peace. His presence puts others at ease and makes them feel safe. The men running around making noise and aggressively telling people they are ALPHA MALES are not ALPHA MALES – and everyone knows it. There is no bigger clue that a man is a beta (or lower) than bluster, chest thumping and ridiculing others.

  4. An ALPHA MALE makes women feel valued and appreciated. He does this by listening to them, showing an interest in their lives and their interests, defending them against ridicule and aggression, and being kind to their friends and family. Oh, and also by NOT RAPING THEM. The ALPHA MALES who make women feel valued and appreciated are the ones getting all the tail. Want to get laid regularly? Be the kind of man a woman wants to sleep with every day for the rest of her life. Women don’t want to sleep with beta males who run around making fools of themselves telling everyone how manly they are. Women see right through that shit. And if you have to rape someone to get laid, you are most assuredly NOT an ALPHA MALE.

  5. ALPHA MALES put the well being of the group ahead of their own interests. That is the ALPHA MALE’S job: being the leader, the protector, and the rock. If a man’s primary interest is his own penis, he is not an ALPHA MALE. If a man is more worried about his appearance or his public persona than he is about the happiness and safety of those around him, he is not an ALPHA MALE.

  6. An ALPHA MALE does not ridicule or denigrate women. It belies an insecurity and deep fear that women pick right up on. Women do not want to sleep with men who are afraid of women. It’s just not manly.

Real ALPHA MALES are incredibly appealing, to both men and women. I am enormously fortunate to know several ALPHA MALES. I hold them in considerable esteem. And they are, as one would expect, successful in both vocation and their relationships with women. These men get laid. A lot. And they get paid. A lot. Because they move through the world in a way that makes the people around them feel secure, valued and safe.

If you want to be a true ALPHA MALE, stop listening to the clowns thumping their chests and making all the noise about how manly they are. They are fools, and they will drag you right down into their nonsense and bluster.

Watch men like Antonio Valladares, and Melkor, and James Fell, and Sean Flanagan, and Mike Howard, and Andrew Dixon, and Alan Aragon, and Tony Polanski. These men NEVER tell people they are alpha males. Because they don’t have to. People just know.

These are the real ALPHA MALES.


Why I Chose the Flu Shot

photo-59Vaccines in general, and especially the flu vaccine, are a hot button these days. I posted on facebook that I’d gotten my annual flu shot and the response was predictably contentious. One guy even ridiculed my appearance. Predictable trolls are predictable.

I used to be anti-vaccine. Especially the flu vaccine. I could be obnoxious about it. Thank goodness it was (mostly) before facebook, or I’d have an online history of anti-vax ‘activism’ to be embarrassed about. In a follow up post, I shared the story of the first time I actually got the real flu:

“I used to wonder why people got so worried about the flu. I’d had it a few times and my healthy adult immune system had fought it off efficiently. Why all the hype about flu season and flu shots? What the heck was the big deal? I was pretty obnoxious about it.

And then the year I was 30 I got the flu for real. And as I crawled down the hall one morning (because I wasn’t able to walk, or even stand up) to ask my husband to take me to the emergency room, I was humbled by the realization that all those flus I had arrogantly told myself my body had fought off were really nothing more than bad colds.”

These days, I get my flu shot every year, and my kids are fully vaccinated. My experience with the real flu is only part of the story. In fact, it’s a very small part of the story.

The real reason I get my annual flu shot has nothing to do with me as an individual, and it has nothing to do with the individuals I may otherwise expose to the virus. I get the flu shot because I am a member of a civilization. A civilization that I benefit from in a multitude of ways. I have an obligation to keep that civilization healthy and productive in any way that I can. Because a healthy, productive civilization is of enormous benefit to me and my family. I am not an island. I am an intrinsic part of this civilization, and my actions matter to the health and productivity of that civilization. .

Let me explain, using an analogy most people are very familiar with: traffic.

Traffic laws are in place to keep traffic moving as efficiently and smoothly as possible, and to keep motorists safe. Traffic laws are not a ‘conspiracy’ to restrict individuals’ freedom. Traffic laws help everyone get where they are going as quickly and safely as possible. The more people that respect traffic laws, the more easily everyone can move from place to place, and the safer we all are. I think almost everyone can agree on that.

Some people don’t understand the big picture that traffic laws represent. They think “I’m just one person, what I do doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I’m just going to break the law here. I’m just one person! What harm can it do?” And it’s true, that on an individual level, one person’s actions have a very small effect. Unfortunately, that one person’s actions can influence other people’s actions. And when other drivers see that person breaking the law, they think “Well, he’s doing it, I might as well too.” And soon, lots of people are breaking the law, and things get more and more chaotic, and bottlenecks happen, and EVERYONE gets slowed down, and the risk of accidents increases for EVERYONE. And as more and more people break the law, breaking the law becomes normalized, and the laws begin to not matter at all, and respect for the laws diminishes, and chaos reigns. Hello traffic jam. Hello accidents.

If everyone would just follow the laws, things may be a little slow, but they’ll be way less slow than the mess that occurs when some people think the laws don’t apply to them.

Vaccines aren’t laws, and they won’t likely ever be. But the ARE recommended by every reputable public health agency. And ultimately, those recommendations aren’t really to protect INDIVIDUALS. Yes, getting vaccinated will greatly reduce your individual risk of contracting a preventable disease, but at the end of the day, vaccines aren’t there to protect YOU. They are to protect the civilization. The more people that comply with vaccine recommendations, the more the civilization is protected from disease. The less chance the disease has of finding a host, and over time the disease dies out. We saw it happen with smallpox and polio. Those diseases are gone. No one has to worry about them any more, not even people who aren’t vaccinated, because enough people followed the recommendations to eradicate the disease on a civilization level. Just as compliance with traffic laws keep everyone moving more quickly and safely. We see some people these days believing that vaccine recommendations don’t apply to them as individuals, that their individual actions don’t matter. The result is that some previously eradicated diseases are making a comeback. Whooping cough, measles. And it’s not always the people who make the decision not to vaccinate that pay the price. Many times, it’s infants who are too young to be vaccinated. Just as the individual who breaks a traffic law may not be the one who gets in an accident or who gets slowed down by traffic. Often it’s people down the line who pay the price of one person’s decision not to obey the law, especially when that one person’s actions contribute to a larger, more systemic pattern of behavior.

Several people linked me to this Cochran Review of the scientific literature on the flu vaccine. They seem to have focused on this specific conclusion as evidence that the flu vaccine is ineffective:

“The preventive effect of parenteral inactivated influenza vaccine on healthy adults is small: at least 40 people would need vaccination to avoid one ILI case (95% confidence interval (CI) 26 to 128) and 71 people would need vaccination to prevent one case of influenza (95% CI 64 to 80).”

What this means is that 40 people need to be vaccinated to prevent one case of ‘influenza like illness’ and 71 need to be vaccinated to prevent 1 laboratory-confirmed case of influenza. Oy, that seems depressing, doesn’t it? Maybe the flu vaccine really IS ineffective?

Lets do some math. If 40 vaccines prevent 1flu-like illness, then 240 million vaccines would prevent 6 million flu-like illnesses. 240 million is equal to 75% of the US population. So, if 75% of the US population gets vaccinated, we collectively prevent 6 million flu like illnesses. If 71 vaccines prevent 1 laboratory confirmed case of flu, then 240 million vaccines will prevent 3.4 million cases of laboratory confirmed flu.

Neither 6 million nor 3.4 million is insignificant, especially to the people who can’t get vaccinated due to allergies or age or previous reaction.

The flu vaccine isn’t ineffective. It simply takes a high level of compliance, on a civilization scale, to realize the enormous benefit. What the Cochran Review actually shows is what public health agencies have been saying for decades: participation is important to protect our society.

The more people that are vaccinated, the more protected our civilization is.

Just as the more people that follow traffic laws, the more quickly and safely we all get where we are going.

I choose to be on the team that is preventing millions of illnesses, just as I choose to be on the team that is keeping traffic moving quickly and safely.

I can get vaccinated, so I do, thereby protecting those who can’t. And contributing to a healthier civilization.

Getting vaccinated isn’t about me. It isn’t even about the people I come in direct contact with. It’s about being a part of a group, and contributing to the welfare of that group in any way I’m able. And in return, I receive numerous benefits: safety, resources, companionship, opportunities, education and more.

I get vaccinated for the same reason I follow traffic laws and pay taxes and return my shopping cart to the corral when I go to the grocery store. A little bit of inconvenience on my part keeps the system running smoothly. And I receive enormous benefit from a smoothly running system.

There were a couple other conclusions from that Cochran Review, including:

– “The administration of seasonal inactivated influenza vaccine is not associated with the onset of multiple sclerosis, optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve of the eye) or immune thrombocytopaenic purpura (a disease that affects blood platelets).” (no indication that the vaccine causes MS or other conditions)

– “Evidence suggests that the administration of both seasonal and 2009 pandemic vaccines during pregnancy has no significant effect on abortion or neonatal death.” (looks safe for unborn fetuses)

I really liked this interview with Eula Biss (author of ‘On Immunity: an Innoculation‘) on this topic. She has an eloquent way of explaining this complicated reality in simple words.

I also appreciate this essay in Scientific American on “The Ethics of Opting Out of Vaccination“.

You can learn more about this year’s flu vaccine here and here.

And because the anti-vax movement is nothing if not predictable, let me state definitively here: I am not a ‘shill’ for ‘Big Pharma’ or ‘Big’ anything. No one is paying me to post this. I do not gain any benefit from this post other than promoting public health, which, as a member of the public, directly benefits me in many ways.