No One’s Power but Our Own: Paleo Sexist Woes, and an Invitation to Rise Up and Roar

The following is a guest post by Stefani Ruper of Paleo For Women, lending her unique perspective on the differences between the sexes.

[For an update, please see: Lemons to Lemonade Documentary - Ed]

Preface

Mark's Daily Apple receives between 250,000 and 300,000 unique visitors to its homepage every month. This means that MDA has approximately 300,000 regular followers. With this many followers, MDA blows the rest of the paleosphere out of the water, beating out spot #2 at 55,000 followers (thepaleodiet.com) by more than 500 percent.*

Which doesn't mean much, other than the fact that having an ear to the ground at MDA yields a pretty good idea of what's trending hot in the paleosphere.

In August of 2010,** Mark posted an article, "Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy?" and said this:

A recent article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gives a great overview of these benefits which include decreases in blood pressure, reduction in oxidative damage to lipids, protein and DNA, improvement in insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, as well as decreases in fat mass.

He goes on: "How can you argue with results like these?"

Easily.

The recent article link leads to a review of intermittent fasting studies performed in 2007. It contains the following passages:

Heilbronn et al. found that, after 3 weeks of alternate day fasting, insulin response to a test meal was reduced, which implied improved insulin sensitivity. It is interesting that this effect on insulin sensitivity occurred only in male subjects.

And also:

Another diabetes risk factor that has shown a sex-specific effect is glucose tolerance. After 3 weeks of alternate day fasting, women but not men had an increase in the area under the glucose curve. This unfavorable effect on glucose tolerance in women, accompanied by an apparent lack of an effect on insulin sensitivity, suggests that short-term ADF may be more beneficial in men than in women in reducing type 2 diabetes risk.

Following through to the research linked to by the review demonstrates that the sex differences are real.

This fact went unnoticed by Mark Sisson—certainly an innocent oversight rather than some sort of malicious chauvinism—and he is not alone in that. Sex differences in response to different food and lifestyle choices are largely ignored by the paleosphere. A paleosphere which we generally regard as presumably, hopefully, perhaps some day in the future, more egalitarian, data-oriented, and smart about diet and lifestyle than it's conventional counterparts.

So far in this regard it is not. The world is largely ignorant of the differences between male and female diet and behavioral needs. The majority of medical studies are performed on men, and when they are performed on women, they are almost always menopausal women, in order to eliminate the presumed variable complications that hormonal fluctuations introduce into a testing environment. So even when paleo blogging gurus refer to the most unbiased research in the medical world, they are referring to studies designed to work around rather than through the needs of reproductive women.

The Problem: Perfectionism and it's Tango with Social Norms

Paleo dieters are obsessed with being hot. Much as we might like to conflate our desire for optimum sex appeal with our desire for optimal health—and much as that may be a legitimate act, since health and physical attractiveness are in some ways significantly correlated—the fact remains that we very much prize the tangled duo of perfect health and perfect hotness. The degree to which we prioritize these pursuits varies, but it is very much worth asking the question of each of us: we might say we are in pursuit of the "healthy," but is that what we honestly mean? Do we instead not mean "impressive"? Or "perfect"? Or "attractive"? Capable of strutting our superior life choices around haters? Or inspiring people? Are we using paleo 'health' as a way to cover up our real need, our need to be validated and accepted and sexy and loved?

Maybe. The question is not super relevant, other than for the fact that much of what we do is in pursuit of this dual hot-healthy goal. And that's great, except for the fact that we are total extremists about it. If you are in doubt of this fact I invite you to go to Paleohacks, or to the MDA forums, which are the two largest online paleo communities. They are full of quotes such as this one:

I have never starved myself and your generalization that fasting for 40 days causes starvation is incorrect.

Paleo dieters often are by our very nature perfectionists. We seek optimal health, optimal performance, optimal looks, optimal life hacks. Optimal macronutrient ratios, optimal micronutrient intake.... the list is long. The whole point being that a diet that promises perfect health (literally), and that often delivers something very close, naturally attracts people who chase perfection. The diet, lifestyle, and community structure provide myriads of ways for us to do that. Even those of us who were not perfectionists to begin with get sucked into the fervor. The paleosphere is a culture of optimality-seeking, through and through.

Psychological problems aside, isn't that all well and good? Doesn't that lead us to better health in the end?

For men, yes? For women, no?

There are two ways in which this pursuit of optimality—specifically with respect to this dual hot-healthy pursuit—has the potential to derail health. First is the end goal, and secondly are the methods we often use to reach those goals.

Perhaps the most obvious problem with pursuing attractiveness through diet and lifestyle is that attractiveness by social standards is not necessarily aligned with evolutionary health. This we know well, but it bears repeating. Standards of attractiveness are conditioned just as strongly, if not more strongly, by social standards rather than by base physiological drives. This is evidenced by simple tropes: it is now attractive to be tan rather than pale, for example, since upper classes have more leisure time to spend outside. And it is now more attractive to be thin rather than plump, since only upper classes have access to gym memberships and CSAs, etc.

Unfortunately, the paleosphere's vigor for bucking social norms does not appear to extend to body image. The Western world's ideal woman is a thin woman. The paleosphere is not immune to social conditioning by this monster. Sure, the paleosphere might say that it values strength and fitness moreso than conventional counterparts, but even for those of us who believe that, this notion is almost a matter of perfectionism again, pushing ourselves to incorporate as many things into our bodies that make us attractive as possible: not just skinny, but also strong. Not just thin, but also muscled. The typical perfect paleo body is lithe, fit, and rippling. Curvy, perhaps, but never insofar as it might encroach upon a woman's hard abs. Bear in mind, also, that even without the muscles, even without this specifically paleo ideal, thousands of paleo dieters are in it for dropping pounds.

This would be all well and good if a thin woman were actually the most optimally healthy woman.

She is not.

For reference, a model or an athlete on TV may be around 17-18 percent body fat. (For men, around 10.) Women begin dying around 12 percent body fat, and they stop menstruating at a wide variety of lower body fat levels, depending on the woman. Typically, menstruation drops off by around 18 percent, though many women stop menstruating at 20 or even 22 or 23 percent body fat, depending on her development and the strength of her metabolism and her ovaries, etc. Some women are naturally stickly thin. Most are not. Trying to jam women adjusted to 20 or 22 percent body fat bodies into 18 percent body fat bodies is practically a crime. Those last few percentage points that come off of a woman are those stored around her buttocks, hips, and thighs. This fat is specifically female fat, and it is significantly associated with a woman's well-being.

Why do women have this fat, and what does it do?

Aside from protecting women against starvation more strongly than men, as well as assuring that a woman will have enough energy and nutrients to carry offspring, this fat is also largely responsible for partitioning DHA (the "good" omega 3) fat to a woman's offspring. Children born of mothers with more of this DHA-heavy fat tend to be smarter than those without (PDF). Those are all important things, evolutionarily, imho.

Science agrees. The most fertile woman is not the thinnest or the most buff woman. Instead, the most fertile woman is above 22 percent body fat. Many studies even argue that women between BMIs of 25-29—often considered by our culture as "overweight"—fare better in longevity and long term health (PDF) than lower weight women. Below the healthy range of > 20 percent body fat women often begin experiencing cravings, anxiety, depression, insomnia, loss of libido, brittle hair and nails, hypothyrodism and infertility. The bottom line being that a woman's fat around her hips, buttocks, and thighs—that which prevents her from looking like something on the cover of Shape magazine—is in many cases crucial for health, mental well-being, and reproductive function.

So that's one thing. We fail to take into account sex-specific needs for body fat and for health, and we allow our desire for attractiveness to mangle them like a meat grinder.

The second is health and weight loss method.

As optimality-seekers, we paleo dieters thrive off of evolutionary tricks that can be used to achieve health and weight loss goals. These include but are not limited to cold therapy, carb cycling, ketosis, high intensity interval training, calorie restriction, and intermittent fasting. What is wrong with all of these practices is not their intrinsic natures, necessarily, but is instead the vigorous extent to which we pursue them, and the recklessness we have with regards to sex differences.

Enter the MDA preface. Fasting is enormously popular in the paleosphere today. But it is a stressor, through and through. Couple our vigorous pursuit of optimality with ignorance of sex-specificity, and we land in a heaping pile of female health threats.

As my analysis of fasting points to, and as study after study after study on calorie restriction indicates, men can undergo metabolic stressors relatively painlessly, and in fact usually emerge in good health and fitness. Women, on the other hand, do not. The female body is designed first and foremost to guard its fertility, and for that reason the body strongly resists and is hurt by metabolic stress.

In many cases, both anecdotally and in the literature, women on restrictive diets—whether fasts or calorie-restricted diets, fat-restricted or carbohydrate-restricted diets, typically healthy diets by paleo standards—or unhealthy diets experience hindered mental health, energy, sleep quality, insulin and leptin signalling, thyroid activity, and HPA axis function. Moreover, because the body is detecting metabolic stress and wants to defend itself, restricted women sometimes actually gain weight. I have met, in fact, several women who undertake one to three day fasts and gain a couple of pounds. The dubious nature of these restrictive diets relative to women's health includes the effects of excessive exercise, particularly over-done HIIT.

This isn't to say that women shouldn't reduce calories from time to time, or certainly that they shouldn't engage in HIIT. We should. But female bodies cannot—straight up, they cannot—handle these stressors as well as men do. And even when they do experience benefits—which is often! especially for obese women—it is a sure bet that it occurs by a physiological mechanism unique to a man. In all metabolic influences—in energy intake, expenditure, type of energy utilized, amount of body fat on the person—women require more and different safeguarding than men in order to maintain optimal health. This is the truth of science and of evolution.

All of which is to say:

We paleo dieters are conditioned by Western norms. We want to be attractive. We are driven by promises of optimality and perfection. We pursue these things with vigor. It appears that in many ways, especially as women, we are fucking ourselves.

The solution

One common solution people pose to the body image/feminism problem is an overhaul of society. I agree, to an extent. That would help us a lot. What modern media are doing to contemporary women (and men) is insidious. Malicious. Demonic. For this reason, there are more than a few influential sorts I look forward to meeting on the fiery precipice of hell.

But that is an act of asking—or of forcing—other people to change. Not only does that cause my libertarian roots to twitch in discomforted individualistic alarm, but it also a) constrains my liberation and empowerment by the wills of other people, and who the fuck would ever want to wait around for that? and b) does a disservice to my personal strength and the strength of love in the individuals around me.

The solution then is not to attack the paleo masses. Nor is it to attack the people at the top, those who are calling the shots. It's not to attack Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, Loren Cordain, or any of the other several male paleo bloggers who dominate the blogging scene. They are not doing anything wrong. They want women to be as healthy as women want to be healthy. In fact, while they do not necessarily trumpet women's health issues, I'd assert pretty confidently that they do a better job loving and advocating natural female bodies than women do.

The simple fact is, however, that it's not their job to walk the walk.

It is ours.

Our job is to stand up. Our job is to take ownership of womanhood and to live by healthy, empowered example. It is to be real and honest with ourselves as women, and to come to terms with our own desires and natures. Womanhood will never change if women are not owning and loving the right stuff themselves. We have to get over our baggage. I don't care if we get more attention when we are skinny; I don't care if any of us grew up with towering professional ballerinas squeezing our hips and telling us to go stand in the corner while the real dancers danced. I don't care if we have mommy issues or daddy issues or if we grew up in a world in which being thin or exercising or meeting any of the ridiculous Western notions of womanhood were the only ways we could achieve psychological peace. That's over, now.

I do care. I'm sorry. I care so much I spend several hours each week producing a podcast about that effort. It's hard. More than hard. These issues are frightening. But we are never going to get over them if we do not start standing. Start refusing to listen to the insidious chatter of the outside world. Start ignoring the self-flagellation in our heads. Start walking with our chins up and our eyes ahead.

We have the power to say no to norms, and yes to our health. We have the ability to pay attention to our physiological needs ourselves. We can rise up, and be proud of our evolutionary bodies, and love our bodies as we see fit. We don't need to ask others to do it for us. We don't have the luxury to wait for society to catch up. We have the tools; we have the knowledge; we have each other. This goes for understanding unique physiological and reproductive needs as well as for embracing natural bodies. Now is the time for us to refuse to be caged, and to say fuck it to external pressures, and to exalt in the glory of real, natural, nourished womanhood.

The truth of evolution and a paleolithic perspective encourages this notion. When we use evolutionary science rather than norms to guide our lifestyles and our choices, it helps us break free of social norms. It helps us see what true health looks like, and it helps us embrace our natural bodies. An honest paleo perspective demands natural womanhood. It demands that a woman prioritize her health, and that she nourish herself above all other things. And then with her well-nourished body, a woman is enabled to work productively, to sleep peacefully, to live fiercely, to laugh freely. This goes for women and for men, both. Paying attention to a body's evolutionary needs--and then meeting them--gives it the tools necessary to provide a smooth-running platform off of which the individual can spring, off of which she can live.

The paleosphere cannot help but be weighed down by the intrinsic patriarchy of Western civilization. It is trying to break free—and hats off to the men and women out there making it happen—but it will be some time before it can completely throw off those chains. And we paleo dieters cannot help but pursue perfect bodies and practices with vigor. We cannot be blamed for wanting to be perceived as sexy, healthy, empowered, strong, beautiful, lovable.

However. We cannot ask others to do this for us. Nor can we achieve these things by conventional, gender-neutral, restrictive means. Real health demands something else. Real health asks that we take the knowledge we have ourselves and act on it. And own it. And strut it. And love it. And be embodied, real, self-loving and self-nourishing human beings. That makes us sexy. It makes us powerful. And it makes us real, kick-ass, revolutionary women, in the most beautiful and inspiring senses of the word.

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*The Paleo Diet has 55,000. Robb Wolf, 35,000. Everyday paleo (the blog of women as mothers), around 25,000. Whole9, 20,000. Free the Animal, 15,000. Jimmy Moore, 15,000. Melissa McEwen's blog, 8000. Balanced bites, 8000. Cavegirleats, 2000. For benchmarks.

[Note: According to Google Analytics, Free the Animal receives 55,000 - 60,000 Unique Visitors per month. - Ed]

**This hasn't changed. The more recent series on fasting, which occurred in April 2012, refers to the same batch of articles and leaves sex differences unmentioned.

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My website, Paleo for Women, is a place at which I explore female specific health problems as well as female specific responses to general health issues such as diabetes or weight loss. It is, more importantly, however, a place for women to find passion and inspiration and community. I invite you to join us.

[For an update, please see: Lemons to Lemonade Documentary - Ed]

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Comments

  1. Excellent essay Stefani!

  2. Ryan Banfield says:

    I’ve known a lot of women with 16-18% body fat, and they all had a health menstrual cycle…my girlfriend was ~18% when I met her, and she was just fine as well… That’s all that confused me, otherwise it’s a great piece and definitely an eye-opener.

    • Melissa says:

      It depends on a woman’s set point
      http://huntgatherlove.com/content/womens-set-points
      Genetic variation and upbringing are keys in determining the set point. Most women will not have normal cycles at 16%, but a small minority will.

      Great post BTW

    • Michelle says:

      When I was 18% body fat I thought I had a healthy cycle too. Now with just 2% more, I’ve learned that in fact it was not. Small change in my figure, big change in my health.

      • Anna K. says:

        “When I was 18% body fat I thought I had a healthy cycle too. Now with just 2% more, I’ve learned that in fact it was not. Small change in my figure, big change in my health.”

        Michelle, what do you mean by big changes in your health?

  3. Great blog. I have long found full-figured women more attractive than female athletes (not that I would be ashamed to appear with some of the athletes, by any means, but they really don’t make me look twice). I wish my wife were not obsessed with being thin. I wish she could just embrace who she is (a beautiful girl with “love handles”). I am certainly not opposed to her exercising, playing, moving around, or even dieting (qua dieting: I will call her out every time she goes on a “fad diet” that isn’t Paleo or Paleo-ish, mostly because those diets are no good for her, and they don’t even accomplish what she claims is her goal!).

    Thanks for speaking out, Stefani. More power to you (and the ideas you share here).

    • Hi Joseph! Just keep heapin’ on the love, and let her know not just that there are thousands of us out here but I’d be happy to chat. :)

  4. Heather says:

    I love Stefani and I love this!

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I lost my cycle at 18%, and for some reason, I’m still trying harder than ever to get from my 21% right now, down to under 20%. Why do we do this to ourselves?? So thank you, for reinforcing yet again the things that I so desperately needed to hear today.

  6. That was a perfect article. So much great fucking info, especially in regards to optimal body weight for women and fasting. It honestly took me a back, and made me question some things ,which rarely happens on most websites. Cheers.

  7. Keoni Galt says:

    This piece is a mass of contradictions.

    We paleo dieters are conditioned by Western norms. We want to be attractive. We are driven by promises of optimality and perfection. We pursue these things with vigor. It appears that in many ways, especially as women, we are fucking ourselves.

    Ahh yes. Here we have an entire post that demonstrates the schizophrenia introduced by modern mass media and institutionalized educational brainwashing. Stefani spends the majority of this post lamenting the assumptions that male and female must have different dietary needs because we have physiological differences…great. That certainly contradicts feminist dogma that men and are intrinsically the same, save for plumbing.

    But then she cites the feminist memes that are utterly false and promulgated by the very society and culture she initially points out is the problem:

    The paleosphere cannot help but be weighed down by the intrinsic patriarchy of Western civilization. It is trying to break free—and hats off to the men and women out there making it happen—but it will be some time before it can completely throw off those chains. And we paleo dieters cannot help but pursue perfect bodies and practices with vigor. We cannot be blamed for wanting to be perceived as sexy, healthy, empowered, strong, beautiful, lovable.

    This old feminist canard.

    First up – Patriarchy has nothing to do with the mass media driven society that seeks to impose artificial standards of beauty. That’s a complete red herring.

    Let’s just state it plainly here: by and large, the fashion industry is run by gay males. Those standards of either “too thin” or “muscular and athletic” models are definitely NOT the result of “Patriarchy” standards. They are the standards of homosexual men and what they find attractive…aka women who resemble young men.

    Unfortunately, the paleosphere’s vigor for bucking social norms does not appear to extend to body image. The Western world’s ideal woman is a thin woman.

    First off, you have to talk about “ideal” women from two different perspectives: from the male point of view, the ‘ideal’ woman archetype is pretty simple: youthful fertility is the primary driver of beauty. When you talk about Men’s desire for “thin” women, it’s simply stating the male preference for women who are NOT FAT…not concentration-camp survivor thin.

    If 22% body fat is the ideal ratio for maximum female fertility, I’m fairly certain that ratio applies perfectly to a well shaped, curvy woman with ample buttocks, shapely hips and well endowed breasts (like Marilyn Monroe in her prime.) Normal male sexual attraction hard-wiring certainly is cued towards women who are ‘not thin’ just not morbidly obese like the state of over half the population of Western women today.

    From the women’s side, the pressure of female attraction is far more intense – that is because female’s assessment of female attractiveness is based from a point of view completely different from the male’s concept of attraction – intra-gender competition. Women dress up not really for the benefit of attracting men, but rather for the intra-gender competition of being the most attractive.

    The difference between men and women, simplified: A lone women in a dress and high heels enters a room, in the space of a couple of seconds, the men check out her facial symmetry, her breast and hip shape and the shape of her ass. In a second or two, we rate her for her potential suitability for mating. It’s how we are wired.

    The ladies, on the other hand, look at her walk, her shoes, her color coordination and whether or not she’s showing too much cleavage or legs, and her demeanor and instantly assess where the newcomer fits in the hierarchy of the attractiveness ratings of all the women present in the room.

    This is truly where all this “pressure” to “conform” to an “unrealistic body image” comes from, not “Patriarchal oppression.” Women who are overweight look at these images purveyed by mass media (largely influenced by gay male fashion designers) and call it the “unrealistic standards driven by the oppression women in Western Patriarchy” is about as accurate as the USDA food pyramid is in proscribing the optimal diet is for the human animal.

    • that is because female’s assessment of female attractiveness is based from a point of view completely different from the male’s concept of attraction – intra-gender competition.

      Thank you for saying this, Keoni, now I don’t have to! Not just the above snippet in itals, but your entire response.

      While I agree with the general thrust of Stefani’s post, that sex differences in diet in health are generally broad-brushed (and not just in the paleo community), it has the sense of being another Grrrl! power rant against Evil Patriarchy and how it oppresses women and has even infected the independent minded, generally libertarian paleo movement.

      I am 7 months along with baby #3 right now. My oldest child is 3.5 years old. I’ve been pregnant for a good chunk of the last 4+ years. I feel like I’m turning into a land whale, despite eating well and maintaining an exercise routine during pregnancy. I said as much to my husband the other night, and just gave me one of those withering looks and said: you’re pregnant, and you’re beautiful, you are not a land-whale, and you are too hard on yourself. And he is right. Women are their own worst critics, not only reflexively but of other women as well, and that is where the problems really begin and have to end. Unfortunately, the game of one-up-manship (or up-womanship) will never end because it is part of human nature to compete, and then to hold onto to our prizes in any sector the game we “win,” hence the constant anxiety over our appearances.

      There are so many other factors that go into being attractive, however. A pleasant demeanor, being a good caretaker of your given responsibilities, not producing anxiety in family or your mate, exhibiting intelligence but not know-it-all behavior (another competition strategy, either know it all or play dumb ), and generally just being competent and trustworthy go a long way in demonstrating fitness to a mate, after the initial physical assessment has been done.

      • I also meant to say, women need to trust that the men in their lives are not blowing smoke up their asses when they say “you are beautiful.”

        For the life of me, I couldn’t understand for a long time what my husband saw in me, because when I looked in the mirror, I saw nothing but wide hips and a fat ass – at 5’6″ and 135 lbs, I was already a land whale in my own mind. I never asked him to explain his attraction to me, I just accepted that he was attracted to me and learned to rock it. I have moments of weight-anxiety now and then, but I trust that he loves me, and it spurs me on to keep myself healthy for my sake, his sake, and that of our kids.

      • Keoni Galt says:

        Unfortunately, the game of one-up-manship (or up-womanship) will never end because it is part of human nature to compete, and then to hold onto to our prizes in any sector the game we “win,” hence the constant anxiety over our appearances.

        This is it…not so-called “Patriarchal Oppression.”

        To quote a now defunct blog, Seasons of Tumult and Discord:

        —————————–

        “Think about the various ways a woman advertises youth and health. Shaving the hair off their legs, their armpits, plucking facial hair, maybe even going bald down below. These are all attempts to appear younger. Bleaching their hair to a cornflour blond color is also an attempt to be appear younger. Hair of that color is typically only found on very young girls. Creams and lotions applied to their skin to make them soft and smooth are also attempts to retain a youthful, healthy appearance. Foundation and other makeups applied to the face to hide blemishes and make it appear smoother. High heels point the toe downward giving the lower leg a longer and more supple appearance and making the feet look smaller. Take the desire for small childlike feet to an extreme we see the ancient practice of foot binding in China.

        In conjunction with the desire for a youthful and healthy appearance is the need to advertise that the woman is sexually mature enough to mate. Lipstick is the first thing that comes to mind. A painting of the lips to mirror the flush of blood during sexual arousal to a lower set of lips. Blush on the cheeks to mirror the flush of sexual excitement. Enhancement of the breasts to mirror the round fullness of the rump of a sexually mature primate. Form fitting clothes to draw the male eye to the waist and advertise the optimum waist to hip ratio of a sexually mature female.

        The reality is that women are in a sexual cold war with other women. The sides are always escalating. Attempting to come up with one more weapon to attract a better mate. Think about a group of women who are in the same social group. Most of them are typically around the same general level of attractiveness. With minor differences for coloring and body type, they typically have similar dress styles and none of them stray too far from applying the same level of cosmetics in about the same way. Nothing they do to appear more youthful, healthy, and sexually mature changes the overall symmetry of their facial features or their skeletal structure. Their weight is the one factor under their control that has a direct impact on their beauty.”

        ———————–

        When a woman says feeling bad for being overweight is just an oppressive Patriarchal social construct, and that she feels no need to conform to it, what she’s really saying is either one of two things: 1) she gives up in the “competition” of looking attractive to men, or 2) she’s dissembling to make other women give up the competition, thereby raising her own relative value (i.e. less competition from other women).

        This is why you have so-called “frenemies” that encourage other women to cut off their long hair, or not to worry about their 30 lbs. of excess weight… “Don’t change a thing girl! You’re beautiful just as you are! Only the unfair and oppressive ideals of Patriarchal society make you feel unattractive! “

      • Hi all.
        Lots of things. I’ll go with just one. This was deliberately NOT a feminist “grrr” article. I believe that there are real things in society and in the paleosphere in particular that make it difficult for a woman to accept her body and to prioritize her health over her looks. I outlined those. And yeah, they’re a bit ridiculous, so I’ll openly admit to being fierce about them and using hyperbolic language. But then, in the “solution” part, I did NOT pose to change anyone else. My posited solution to the problem of women struggling to accept themselves in our current world is to change our own philosophies. I don’t want to tear down the world. I’m not asking men to change, I’m not asking leaders to change, I’m not asking structure to change. What I want is for women to prioritize their health and to love themselves.

      • Stefani, I acknowledge that you said the solution was not to change men, but that women have to change themselves and their outlook – easier said than done, more often than not, but I don’t think the root cause of women’s poor outlook on their attractiveness is due to patriarchal Western culture.

        You’ve identified a real problem that requires research, both scientific and in the lay realm, but attributing poor body image to “patriarchy” doesn’t identify the root cause, it just smoke-screens some of the issues we human animals would rather not face about our natures. Namely, that women are their own worst enemies most of the time.

      • Keoni Galt says:

        Stefani, I actually agree with many points in your piece, I only take issue with some of the places you sought to identify as the sources of these problems…

        “The paleosphere cannot help but be weighed down by the intrinsic patriarchy of Western civilization. ”

        If you are not a feminist, I would question why you cited some typical feminist shibboleths.

        Indeed, if you really are a libertarian, you should understand that feminism is one of the primary ideological platforms of collectivist/socialist and cultural marxism, and is the very anti-thesis of personal freedom and limited Governmental intrusion in our lives.

        But I’m glad to see you did not resort to the usual feminist tactics of debate – i.e. shaming language, trying to imply that any man who questions feminist dogma is desperate, creepy, can’t get laid or has small genitalia. LOL

      • Oh Keoni, if I weren’t already married, I would fall in love with you. LOVE the statement on feminism … I don’t want to go to far off-topic, but I wanted to say that I lament my female friends who identify as “feminist” without really understanding what the movement is all about. To them, it’s equal rights and opportunity, freedom to be who they want to be without restrictions due to gender. They don’t see the woman-hate and misandry, the victim mentality or entitlement attitude. I am stealing that quote and sharing it far and wide.

      • MoreAnon says:

        “Let’s just state it plainly here: by and large, the fashion industry is run by gay males.”

        Anna Wintour of Vogue is a gay male? Kate White of Cosmo is a gay male? Emmanuelle Alt of French Vogue is a gay male? Franca Sozzani of Italian Vogue is a gay male? Bridget Foley of Women’s Wear Daily is a gay male? Robbie Myers of Elle is a gay male? Linda Wells of Allure is a gay male?

        No. The fashion industry – the people who have the power of taste to make and break designers and executives – are largely women. Can’t blame gay men for this one.

        These women rule fashion from the high perches of their international multi-billion dollar media empires. They are the ones who decide if stick-thin is in with Twiggy, or out with a curvy Kardashian.

      • Keoni Galt says:

        largely influenced by gay male fashion designers” is not the same as “completely and totally run by.”

        Also, are you going to try and deny that even if these Women who run these giant fashion companies, that the designers, decorators and other jobs in the industry don’t have a large representation of gay males in it? Please.

      • Elenor says:

        Let’s point out too, that the DESIGNERS — the (mostly) men making the clothing — are more often gay, than not! And they want not a woman to wear their designs, but a clothes hanger that can walk! The desired body shape of models — catwalk, catalog, magazine, you name it — is no hips, no waist, usually not even a sixpack (that’s more Shape and Women’s Fitness magazines style). Keoni is correct, the desire for the complete opposite of a WOMAN’S body is the driving force in fashion. Adolescent boy body — when it’s not carried so far that it’s concentration camp survivor or meth addict body!

      • Not only the fashion world, but the dance world. My daughter, a very curvy, but low BMI at 12 was told by her over weight, heart attack bound, gay ballet teacher that she was too fat and needed to quit eating at McDonalds. My fine “feminist” daughter basically said “fuck you…I don’t eat at McDonalds.” He stopped talking to her….the prima Donna that he is…then he had that heart attack. She is now 17 and very proud of her curves. Just sayin’

        Thankfully things are changing for dancers. Being full figured is no longer a sin, unless you are a ballerina. They still have that stigma. Even to the point of breast reductions and lypo. It was a man who put girls in point shoes.

      • Conscious Kitty says:

        Media execs are more than 90% male. Fortune 500 execs are more than 90% male. The media, primarily through advertising, is dictating what we see on TV and in magazines. Teenagers are spending more than 10 hours a day on average consuming media through watching TV, listening to music, browsing the internet, and reading magazines. I think patriarchy undeniably plays a significant role in creating women’s and men’s opinions of what women should look and behave like. Whether its malicious or not, you can decide for yourself.

    • Holy shitballs did I love your comment. I also loved Stef’s article. And I also love when my brain feels like it got a massage. Thanks all.

    • Women can and do participate in the patriarchy as much as men do. I agree that women are frequently much more harsh in their judgment of their own and each other’s bodies than men typically are. But women being the agents doesn’t mean it’s not a feature of patriarchy. Patriarchy is a society-wide phenomenon, we swim in it the way fish swim in water. We all participate in it. To say that because women do something means it’s not patriarchy or not oppressive to women is to assume that no one ever participates in their own oppression. See: Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

      Patriarchy is one of those words that carries a lot of baggage. In some ways I find it almost a useless word, since it’s basically synonymous with “society” but causes way too many knee-jerk reactions where when you use it, listeners will assume you believe a whole host of other things that well-known people who have historically used the word “patriarchy” believe or straw men erected by opponents of those well-known historic figures (such as: women can’t be sexist, all sex is rape, communism is awesome, men suck, feminists want to justify being fat and ugly, etc.). If patriarchy is a society-wide phenomenon then I’d just rather use the word “society” and skip the feminist diversion.

    • >Patriarchy has nothing to do with the mass media driven society that seeks to impose artificial standards of beauty.

      >Those standards of either “too thin” or “muscular and athletic” models are definitely NOT the result of “Patriarchy” standards. They are the standards of homosexual men

      So to summarise: “Patriarchy has nothing to do with the [...] artificial standards of beauty [...] They are the standards of [...] men”

      Even if these standards *are* set by gay men, that’s still men. And the mass media you acknowledge drives our society? Largely run by men. So, you have a system whereby the standards are set by men, then propagated by men. Seems to me pretty much the definition of patriarchy, as rule by men?

      >The ladies, on the other hand [...] instantly assess where the newcomer fits in the hierarchy of the attractiveness ratings of all the women present in the room.

      Where do these attractiveness ratings come from if not the mass media? While they may well be trying to compete one another, they sure as hell do so by trying to conform as perfectly as possible to the ideals set forward by the mass media – the ‘best looking’ girls are always those who can make themselves look closest to whichever pop stars or celebrities are en vogue at the moment. If they fight, they fight to achieve the ideal that has been set forward by patriarchy, as you state yourself.

      Have you ever read any tabloid papers? In the UK, the Daily Mail, for instance, is full of articles, written by (mostly) straight men, criticising famous women for not conforming to the current ideals of femininity. And look at publications like FHM – how many of their ‘100 sexiest women’ really look more like Marilyn than Kate Moss? The ideal of the adolescent boy/girl is thoroughly entrenched in straight male culture.

      Your idea of ‘Youthful fertility’ may stand up somewhat, but could easily just be a culturally-laden value judgement that attempts to back itself with evolutionary assumptions. Look at representations of the female form in early human cultures and it’s nearly always large – closer to what we might term ‘BBW’ than any ideal of ‘youthful fertility’ (which more often than not equates more closely to the adolescent female form). These symbols of fertility are grown women, well fed, and Big. So your claim that men just want women who are ‘not fat’ may well be just as societally informed as those who assume ‘attractive=anorexic’.

      While you make an interesting point, insofar as you claim that the ideals women strive to achieve are not the ideals hetero men seek in their partners, you miss your own inconsistency in pointing out that what women strive for is still controlled by society, and a society which is patriarchal.

    • “Let’s just state it plainly here: by and large, the fashion industry is run by gay males. Those standards of either “too thin” or “muscular and athletic” models are definitely NOT the result of “Patriarchy” standards. They are the standards of homosexual men and what they find attractive…aka women who resemble young men. ”

      I can vouch for this. My cousin is a model in Italy – his career has hit a roadblock because he won’t be a designer “fuck-doll” This industry is completely fucked.

    • cynthia says:

      Half the population of western women are not MORBIDLY OBESE. Morbidly obese is when you get wedged between the walls of your hallway and have to be rescued.

      66% of the population is OVERWEIGHT. That is the 25-29 range. People (like me) look pretty darned “normal” in this range. People would not know I was “overweight” in medical terms if I did not tell them.
      I think at last reading some 30% of the population was in the 30-35 range. I’ve been that fat. I’ve been that fat and run miles each week and done yoga and all sorts of things while fat. Regular, garden variety fat, still plenty capable of movement, having decent health indicators as long as they stick to healthy habits, etc.
      BMI 40 is the cutoff that insurance companies use to categorize people as dangerously obese and deprive them of health care.

      It’s this kind of hype that drives the conversation about weight into crazy territory. No, 50% of American women are not above that BMI 40 cutoff. They’re just not. Claiming they are doesn’t do anyone any good either on a personal level or on a policy level.

  8. I think women have it harder due to the inevitable fat accumulation that comes with aging, and the force of gravity. There comes a point where shapely thighs and an ass you could park a truck on just isn’t in the cards.

    • Don’t be silly. I look much better and have a better body composition at 41 than I did at 21. Obviously hormones change over the years, but that’s true of men too.

  9. Somehow you managed to link together paleo and patriarchy of the West….

    “Bravo”

    • You’re right. In several thousand words, that’s the only thing I did.

      • Stefani,
        Reading some of these responses to your post is discouraging. I just wanted to say that I don’t agree with some of the criticisms of your use of the word ‘patriarchy’. Some people are so caught up in criticism of any thing that has a whiff of feminism that they have to reject it out of hand, no matter how reasonable and measured it is. The backlash against feminism in our country (and beyond, I’m sure) is ridiculous, especially among women who often seem terrified of being labeled a ‘man-hater’ (many of the young women I teach are, anyway), as if true feminism had anything to do with hating men. Your post was reasonable, sane, and perfectly legitimate. You have nothing to apologize for, and I hope you won’t feel pressured by these criticisms.

  10. LeonRover says:

    It’s Hunter vs Gatherer experience.

    Ruben-esque vs Ruben-skewed.

    FatherTalk vs MotherTalk.

    BoysTalk vs GirlsTalk.

    Ah jest lurve how GirlsTalk.

    Slainte

  11. Jessica says:

    Amazing. Spoke right at me and brought tears to my eyes.

    Thank you, Stefani, for having the courage to speak your mind and speak up for Paleo feminism.

  12. Thanks I really enjoyed reading this article. If anyone wan;t to read about being a woman in a hunter gatherer society they might like to read this;
    http://www.amazon.com/Nisa-Life-Words-Kung-Woman/dp/0394711262
    I seem to remember there was some interesting stuff on the (rather high) self esteem of women and on their own standards of beauty.

    • Marlowe reports that Hadza women intermittently skip periods I don’t want to dig through my books now but they did have pretty low body fat. Steffanson doesn’t (to my recollection) talk about the frequency of Inuit menstruation but soes say that they begin quite early at about 14 or so which is quite a bit earlier than the Hadza.

      • Right. So as Melissa touched on above, a woman’s reproductive hormone “set points” of a sort are conditioned by the environment in which she developed. Women who grow up on the border of starvation and stay on that border tend to reproduce just fine. “Fine.” Women who grow up in fluctuating environments, however, with different kinds of food toxins and different weight levels end up suffering as their hormonal milieus get further and further away from what they were experiencing in childhood and puberty.

      • Hello Stefani,
        I wasn’t really making a point I was just adding some anthropological context to the discussion. I suppose I was getting at the variance in menstruation and biological adulthood in women in Hunter Gatherer societies. As far as I know fertility is pretty good in most traditional societies. Certainly more than here in the UK where it seems many people I know are having trouble conceiving.

      • Pauline says:

        Have you read The Old Way, a Story of the First People (Elizabeth Marshall Thomas was 19 when her father took his family to live among the Bushmen of the Kalahari. Fifty years later Thomas returns to her experience of the Bushmen, one of the last hunter-gatherer societies on earth).

  13. Styloo says:

    Bravo, I recently wrote my dissertation on paleo and intermittent fasting and I completely forgot to investigate whether there would actually be a difference between men and women, you have opened my eyes.

  14. Wow. Such a great post. And for me, timely. Thank you so much for this reality check and your insight.

  15. Great perspective.

  16. I think the fashion industry is a red herring when it comes to women and anxiety over their appearance because even though they might browse through the magazines it is not with the intent of wearing those clothes, if a woman had a wish it wouldn’t be to be able to look good in the clothes in Vogue it would be to look good in a pair of jeans.

    Just like men, women figure out what they can and can’t wear, if a guy is 5′ 8″ or a woman is 5′ 2″ then they simply can’t wear what they see in the pages of GQ or Vogue, the clothes will not looks the same as they do on a person who is above average in height, slim-hipped and very lean.

    The exception seems to be shoes. I can’t understand the deal with shoes. Why would you need more than two pairs?

  17. Shelley says:

    Very nice, Stephani. I have also noticed a temporary (2-3 day) weight-gain after any type of stressor, such as IF and especially HIITs. At 45, the weight is definitely around the hips (which I hate) but overall a reasonable paleo diet and reasonable exercise along with about 22% BMI seems to work best for me both physically and mentally.

    • Better the hips than your stomach! Especially for your health.
      I also notice weight gain with stressors, most strongly with poor sleep. This is a different pathway than other stressors, but still definitely counts.
      22 percent is hot! Awesome for you, Shelley.

      • I’m not sure how you can consider this a serious article when you confound and confuse body fat and BMI. Those are two totally different calculations. 22% BF IS NOT a BMI of 22. In fact, a 22 BMI would be more like 27% BF in a typical person.

        Of course, to be precise on the issue, BMI has nothing at all to do with body fat, and is simply a formula that calculates height vs. weight and doesn’t measure body fat at all.

        Having noticeable muffin top/fat rolls/large fat deposits isn’t healthy regardless of sex. Here’s a good visualization of BF: http://www.leighpeele.com/body-fat-pictures-and-percentages.

      • Hank – Stefani (the author) did not talk about BMI at any point. Her discussion was confined to body fat %. Shelley (a reader/commenter like yourself) is the one who brought up BMI.

      • +Emily: Flat wrong. From the article:

        “Science agrees. The most fertile woman is not the thinnest or the most buff woman. Instead, the most fertile woman is above 22 percent body fat. Many studies even argue that women between BMIs of 25-29—often considered by our culture as “overweight”—fare better in longevity and long term health (PDF) than lower weight women.”

        See that “BMI” right there? You probably didn’t even notice it in there because Stefani apparently doesn’t know the difference and goes straight from a body fat reference to a BMI reference implicitly comparing the two.

      • Shelley says:

        Exactly Emily! Hank, I only brought up BMI because that is the only measurement I know of myself; I have no idea of my BF percentage and really don’t care at this time. I can safely assume, however, that I am not at 27% BF. :-) I was simply stating that as I have aged, the fat and weight has dispersed out to the hips, thighs, & butt and while trying to counteract that, I dropped too low in body fat and noticed all the horrifying symptoms mentioned above: brittle nails, dry skin and hair, tired, moody, etc. With a better diet including sat. fats and more BF, whatever that may be, I feel so much better.

        What I found interesting about the article that I think Stefani did a great job of presenting was that women and men are physically and hormonally different and we probably shouldn’t compare, copy or expect the same results as men. I certainly didn’t get the idea that she was blaming anyone, but rather presented some observations that she, as well as most everyone else, has when it comes to the pressures of looking a particular way. And, as most women will admit, we are our very biggest critic.

        I think what most reasonable people want (besides rob) is to be healthy. :-) I believe that if the health is right, the benefits are a great-looking/feeling body and mind.

      • Cross-talk :
        -Emily, you noticed the comment as the source of the misunderstanding, but got wrong the nit about the article itself.
        -Shelley, you mentioned “22% BMI “. BMI is not a percent, that’s probably a typo, but it makes it look like you conflate BMI and BF%.
        Stefani answered you very politely, not correcting the mistake but also NOT repeating it.
        -Hank picked up on it the comment and answer, since he commented right below it, and this reinforced his Inference from the article that Stefani was conflating the two. She isn’t, that paragraph in the article just reads as information-dense, not confused. Stefani was careful of her terminology even there.

      • Shelley says:

        Thanks marie! it wasn’t necessarily a typo, it was a wrong assumption that applied to a number my doc gave me.

  18. Stefani, terrific post. Thank you so much for highlighting the body fat difference and the different response to stressors. I too notice a temporary weight gain after HIIT, though not after fasting. I fast twice a week because it makes me feel well.
    Like some others in the comments, I don’t think it is patriarchy driving many women to either be “thin” , in the fashionista version (even if that is usually skinny-fat), or to be buff with “low body fat” in the paleo-version.
    I’ve been gravitating more to the idea that it’s about intra-gender status and a control issue, just like eating disorders are about control. Worse, I think there is a dangerous back-lash against healthy weight loss, redefining it all as being about appearance.
    On the one hand, there are the women who are proclaiming “I have it together, I am so successful, I am in control from the tips of my Manolo’s through my bony hips to the frosted tips of my hair” – they earn their place in that high-status group through their tightly controlled appearance and status aside, they feel more in control of their lives this way.
    On the other hand, there are the very buff who frown on the fashionistas (good for them) but then feed the same control need by placing not only strength but some imaginary ideal body-composition above all else.
    .
    Either way, Women do it to themselves. Every man I know drools over old pictures of Marilyn and even Sophia Lauren, even the young guys.
    The hourglass shape with the narrow waist, flared hips and ample breasts is about youth/fertility and I don’t see that primal queue going away any time soon. So ‘they’ are not imposing an ultra-low-fat nor skinny image on us.
    You’ve done a terrific and very necessary job of highlighting the difference in fat needs of the male and female body, but we do ourselves a disservice if we are not careful about swinging to the other side and proclaiming that overweight (BMI 25-29.9) is just fine.For BMI borderline at 25-26, maybe it is fine, if there is decent musculature, but at any higher numbers the fat accumulates in the mid-section. It is no longer around the hips-butt-thighs and it is not even at that point about appearance : visceral fat is unhealthy and there has been a lot of work lately about the waist-to-hip ratio (or even just waist circumference) being a better health indicator than BMI and a very good indicator of the metabolic syndrome.
    If we stay stuck on a supposedly ongoing power struggle with patriarchy (there was one, and in many areas there still is one, but this isn’t it), we go too far and cage in women ourselves. By saying “you’re beautiful just as you are” to women who are overweight by 20-30 pounds, we demean their often instinctive desire to decrease that weight. We make it all about appearance and this is ironic if supposedly we are trying to resist exactly the imposition of an appearance standard by a western patriarchal power structure.

    • Hm. Perhaps I wasn’t quite clear. Patriarchy I think is responsible for us not be attuned to women’s health needs, as evidenced by the male-as-default-subject in medical studies. One of those needs is being fatty-ish. So.. no. I would not say it is patriarchy that make women want to be thin. I would say that patriarchy has blinded us to our needs, has made it more difficult for us to recognize how important it is for us to be fat. But I think even bigger monsters in that machine are diets, media, advertising, women, self-esteem, desires to be impressive, loved, etc. Does that make sense? Anyway.

      I also think– no, I don’t think it’s the patriarchy, but I don’t think it’s exclusively women, either. I get more attention from men when I am thin. I have been both, and I know it. I even had a friend I was totally in love with fail to notice me until I went from BMI 25 to BMI 20. OR another completely untested example is the fact that almost all of the men I encounter on OkCupid (yes!) list that they would not go on a date with a woman who was not listed as “thin” or “atheletic.” “Regular” or “curvy”? Forget it. I know, insane. Or perhaps the continually decreasing body fat levels of Playboy models.
      Anyway. All this is to say– I do NOT think men are as bad about it as women, not even close, but I do think that men play a role. And another role they play, a bigger one, of course, is that women are always trying to impress them. Yes, women want to impress women, but we also want to impress men, and whether or not they actually want something stickly, women think they want something stickly. I’m not sure why. Media, models, celebrities, magazines, our fat-hating culture.. all of it.

      And of course I think factors such as confidence are more important for being sexy. Super, superly more important. The most important.

      Yes! Only hippy body fat, no abdominal body fat. My point of bringing that up was not to make an assertion that this is the healthiest body fat– I do not think so– but rather to point out that there are researchers out there really interested in women’s health at higher weights, and at the very least they are flushing out the health effects of women being overweight, and finding that they are not nearly as deleterious as they are a) for men or b) as previously thought.

      If women are aware of the health risks and want to stay a higher weight, I will happily let them. I don’t think it’s healthy, so I don’t think it’s ideal, but that’s their perogative. “You’re beautiful as you are” is not my message. You’ll notice I didn’t say that in the post. My message is about loving and working with our bodies for health. It’s about using nourishment to achieve health and a healthy weight. I don’t want women to hate their bodies because they are fat. I want them to realize they are overweight because of their diets and lifestyles, but that they should not be upset with or punish their bodies because of it. I want them to make peace with what has happened to both of them, and to do their best to heal and proceed with proper nutrition and exercise and psychological health.

      • “almost all of the men I encounter on OkCupid (yes!) list that they would not go on a date with a woman who was not listed as “thin” or “atheletic.” “Regular” or “curvy”? Forget it. I know, insane.”

        Uhh… No duh… Nowadays, “Regular” and in particular “curvy” are code words for “30-60 lb overweight, or obese”. Speaking for myself (and all the guys I know, for that matter), we don’t want stick thin. I love curves. But not when “curve” actually means “fat roll”.

      • What a curvy cavewoman looks like

        http://meansheets.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/raquel-welch-one-million-years-bc-poster.jpg

        That’s “old school” paleo

      • Stefani, thank you so very much for tackling this.
        Yes, I understand your clarification now and yes the fact that these mostly male researchers are researching mostly male bodies is a big part of the problem -like you say, we actually don’t seem to have a fix on what IS healthy body fat for women nor healthy exercise, activity etc.
        Now, some of us just go by tradition and instinct and o.k., guys’ reactions.
        And yes, you certainly didn’t say or imply and don’t advocate ‘you’re beautiful as you are’ no matter what overweight – I was using that only as marker for the dangerous mentality in some circles.
        But it’s interesting you know, we have so many different images of ‘thin’ : to me and my generation (I just turned 45) it’s more the stick-figures with flat breasts/butts/hips and bony joints. To your generation and the younger ones, like my daughters, ‘thin’ is what we used to call “curves only in the right places” -that is, a narrow waist and slim arms/legs. I suspect that’s why guys respond to you better when you’re ‘thin’, your thin is my Attractively curvy, is that so? They don’t respond better when you have no boobs? (not to put too fine appoint to this :-))
        And I agree with Hank below, descriptions on dating sites are totally warped, like the pictures are 10 years old, you know? My daughter just did a paper on a slew of them for her psych class and my students (the rare female student I encounter in my field are starved for female guidance) discuss these things openly.
        Like you do. Great blog, btw, I’m glad I noticed you commenting a few posts ago and I got to link to it.

      • Edit : Hank Above. My threading woes :-(

      • Patriarchy I think is responsible for us not be attuned to women’s health needs, as evidenced by the male-as-default-subject in medical studies.

        Just throwing this out as a possibility … paleo food for thought. Could it be instead of the patriarchy we should credit feminism for this bias? After all, feminists proclaim quite vociferously that men and women are equal and the same, save the reproductive system and genitalia. They refute the notion that because we own a uterus, ovaries and breasts that we are meant to birth, nurse, nurture and raise children. They will not accept that women have different capabilities, strengths, weaknesses than men, which might explain why men make better captains of industry, while women are better at customer relations, for instance.

        Could this thinking exist in medicine to the extent that research and studies must not be differentiated by gender, so as to show bias to one gender over another?

      • Anna K. says:

        +1 lissa. great point.

      • Can give a single bit of evidence from a reputable source that any well-regarded feminist has said anything you claim?

        You may be reading different things to me, but the feminism I’m aware of is an open, often ferocious, attempt to recognise, explore, reclaim and affirm the individuality of the female experience, and the differences that lie between man and woman.

        If feminists talk about equality, it’s not to claim that ‘we’re all the same’, but simply to claim that in a legal, societal context, gender should not determine the rights an opportunities open to a person. To use your dubious examples, women should have equal opportunity and access to captain industry, and their efforts should be judged on their performance, not their gender.

        Equal rights and access are important things, and its due to the work of feminists that you’re allowed to do many things you likely take for granted – vote, for instance, or receive the education that allowed you to write your comment.

        The idea that all members of society should have equal legal standing and should be able to pursue their own self interests without suffering discrimination and coercion seems to me an important idea. As women have historically suffered great discrimination and coercion, and continue to do so, it seems appropriate to recognise that discrimination and aim for a society where it’s no longer present.

        Regarding male-as-default-subject, it’s a commonly observed occurrence that the perspective of the privileged within a society becomes the default through which dialogue is held. As with many fields of discourse, the male experience is assumed to be the default, and this rarely gets noticed by those who share that perspective. The default perspective takes primary position in research, with secondary research in other areas trailing behind, and within the context of ‘difference’. The White Male gets primary focus in most discourse, then that discourse may spread out to women, to non-white, etc etc. If people were truly interested in equality, they’d make sure to give primacy of focus to both male and female, or, in your conspiracy-theory view, primacy would go to the female.

        So, to answer your question, no, feminism, as the demand that we critique and rethink this primacy-of-the-male isn’t likely to be the reason that many medical studies hold the male position as default.

      • togi, thoughtfully reasoned, as always :-)

      • One only needs to spend a little time reading at such sites as Feministing to know their true agenda. A little time is all I can stand as I find those women (or is it “womyn?”) intolerable. They hate women, they hate men and they view children as a burden at best.

      • Well, a quick look at their front page shows articles regarding pay inequality in medicine, support for Egyptian women suffering street harassment, and a call to end stop-and-frisk practices in cities (their focus being on the discrimination against non-white *men*), but I’ll take your word for what their ‘true agenda’ might be.

        In the interests of my original question, though, I would be grateful if you could link an actual article or two that supports the claims you make. Again, it’d be nice if it could come from a reputable source, or even from a well-regarded feminist. Blogs might not be the best, but whatever you can throw my way…

        I mean, for starters, you could just find a post on feministing if you wanted. It’s not exactly an A+ source, but anything you can use to back your claims might make them seem anything other than misguided.

        That said, do you not think that, like any field of interest or study, there could be multiple points of views, rather than a homogenous consensus? As I wrote below, there are many forms of, say, libertarianism, some of them patently stupid, but does this invalidate all libertarians?

        I wrote quite a few words about the feminism I understand to be in large practice. Do you deny that it exists, and that feminism encompasses multiple different schools of thought, or do you just choose to ignore that it does?

      • tog, thank you for trying in all your comments to bring some thoughtful reasoning to the argument. I was wondering if I even lived in the same country, with all these (invisible to me) feminazis running around :-)

      • oops, togi!

      • Aww, shucks!

        Be careful though – one thing I’ve learned from this kind of discussion: If you can’t see the feminazis, that likely means you *are* one. Eeek! :-)

      • Oh ya, I know, I’d tremble in my shoes…if I was wearing any! Ooops, now I’m an earth-mother. Just can’t win in these kinds of discussions :-)

      • …and by ‘win’ I mean ‘reason’. Oh, the power of metaphor!

  19. “Typically, menstruation drops off by around 18 percent, though many women stop menstruating at 20 or even 22 or 23 percent body fat, depending on her development and the strength of her metabolism and her ovaries, etc. ”

    Got a reference for this, or is this just your opinion? AFAIK, that’s a thoroughly debunked theory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amenorrhoea#Hypothalamic — body fat isn’t the cause of missed periods, but rather low energy availability combined with stress.

    • Right– afaik. Wikipedia.

      While reduced energy availability is of course an issue, and it stops women from menstruating, low body fat plays a key role in having low energy availability. Most women will put on several pounds of fat from a low weight before they start menstruating. If “energy intake” were the primary concern of the body, wouldn’t it start menstruating before packing on the pounds?

      Moreover, there is another explanation for the correlation problem wikipedia is pointing out. Here Wiki says that since there are no obvious body fat level at which women stop menstruating, it must be because of reduced energy availability from the exercise, etc: ” However, recent studies have shown that there are no differences in the body composition, or hormonal levels in amenorrhoeic athletes as compared to regularly cycling athletes.”

      I believe there are two explanations for what’s happening. First, my theory: its that all women, depending on their development and genetics, have different sex hormone level set points that trigger menstruation, etc, and different metabolic milieus. Some women do all right with less body fat, and others don’t. This accounts in part for the missed correlation between body fat and menstruation.
      Secondly, so the research wikipedia refers to is all on athletes. Some of them stop menstruating at low body weights, others don’t. Some of them eat enough calories, others don’t. But those who aren’t menstruating–eating enough calories or not–would be helped along by having greater fat stores. Both energy availability and body fat help signal to the body to menstruate. If one is low, the other must be high. They are both crucial.

      And a third imporant note, the literature is biased strongly towards athletes. This means their research is focused on women living in great energy deficits. Women who just lose weight by being skinny, however– that research is usually done on anorexic women. And THIS research demonstrates quite strongly that body fat is crucial for proper menstruation.

      An excellent 2012 review of how both energy intake and body fat levels are crucial for leptin signalling, which is crucial for reproduction: http://www.eymj.org/search.php?where=aview&id=10.3349%2Fymj.2012.53.4.671&code=0069YMJ&vmode=FULL

      Stress of course compounds things. No arguments there.

    • Anna K. says:

      “Typically, menstruation drops off by around 18 percent, though many women stop menstruating at 20 or even 22 or 23 percent body fat, depending on her development and the strength of her metabolism and her ovaries, etc. ”
      These numbers don’t look right to me either. When I was growing up in Russia, most girl in my high school were thin – some under 20%, most under 23% and nobody had issues with menstruating.

      • Hi. You may read the comment I just posted above yours with regards to my view on this. But I guess I didn’t state it well so I can elaborate: Women’s bodies appear to adopt hormonal set points during puberty. This explains why women who live on the edge of starvation manage to reproduce just fine, but women who experience fluctuating energy stores and hormone levels do not do well at various weights. Some women can lose a lot of weight and still menstruate– or they can be very thin and be just fine– but others cannot because of their development and genetics.

      • Anna K. says:

        Stefani, in the post above you said:
        “And THIS research demonstrates quite strongly that body fat is crucial for proper menstruation.”
        I agree, sure, but not at 22% as you are saying. It’s much more complicated then just a set % of body fat. so yes, your second comment about “fluctuating energy stores and hormone levels” makes more sense then the first.

        so no, most normal women don’t have to have 22-23% body fat to menstruate. If you are coming down from being obese or otherwise unhealthy, may be you have some set point. But if you are a young women looking like this at 18% – you are just fine.
        http://www.leighpeele.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/female-body-fat-percentage-pictures.jpg

      • Right. I agree. Isn’t that what I said?

      • Pauline says:

        An interesting fact to investigate is why young women are menstruating earlier than previous decades. I was always very thin as a child and came late into puberty around 15 yo, whereas young girls in the last decade or so are menstruating earlier some as young as 9 yo. Could this later puberty been influenced by the diets of our mothers/grandmothers during the war year of WW1 and WW2. Could the change in size in girls these days have much more to do with our current western diet, ie they are taller and bigger than previous generations together with the hormones in our food and water have cascading effect . Fascinating stuff!

  20. Keoni Galt says:

    Interesting perspective Stefani, I just spent the last 30 minutes perusing your blog.

    You write well, you’ve got some great paleo-based insights with regards to women’s health, and it’s admirable that you are an eating disorder advisor (since you’re aboard the Paleo bandwagon, I’m sure you are far more successful in helping your cases than the typical SAD advisor)…

    …but then I note your expression “paleo-feminist rage.”

    At that time, being pushed to the edge, I finally realized what an idiot I had been. For someone who spent the vast majority of her life saying ‘fuck you’ to society in one way or another, I had certainly been happy bowing down, genuflecting, and wringing the life out of my body in order to win at one of society’s games.

    If you were to really look into the history, intent and purpose of feminism and it’s influence on society and human sexuality, with the same intellectual honesty you undertook in your awakening to the truth about diet and nutrition, you’ll find that feminism is another “one of society’s games.”

    Feminism is Cultural Marxism. Social engineering, designed to break up the nuclear family as the foundation of civilization (aka “Patriarchy”) so that the collectivist/socialist State can be built to take it’s place.

    It’s primary means of achieving this is by instigating a gender war through indoctrination and propaganda in both the mass media and through subversion of the countries educational system – from Kindergarten all the way to Graduate School. (I deduce you took at least one “Women’s Studies” class at Darmouth, no?)

    In short, feminism influences society by promoting a complete overhaul of gender roles as influenced by culture – masculinize females and feminize the males.

    Change the male female mating dynamic from one of complementary unity to competitive discord.

    One of the ways it does this is to promotes female rage at men as a collective whole (the entire gender!) for the supposed crimes against collective women (the entire gender!) throughout all of history.

    It’s basic ideological principle is a collectivist ideal.

    Being a self-identified feminist who espouses libertarian ideals is a case of cognitive dissonance.

    • “Being a self-identified feminist who espouses libertarian ideals is a case of cognitive dissonance.”

      +1000

      • Oh sure, because objectivist dissection of a health post is not cognitively dissonant itself -lol.
        .
        Boys, Atlas Shrugged, he didn’t quiver in the face of feminist exploration (a work in progress) or try to confine it to stereotypical caricature. Modern feminists don’t burn their bras, deny their femininity or try to out-alpha the alpha-males in favor of some collectivist mis-ideal. They kinda like those guys, in their proper place of course…. ;-)

      • Not to go too far OT, but “Modern feminist” is a term that is so broad as to be useless. It encompasses the bra burners, the deniers of femininity, and those trying to be the alpha female.

        In fact, in this day and age with more girls than boys getting good educations, where the only gender gap in pay is based on personal choice, and where women have a huge advantage over men in the court systems (divorce, custody, rape), what does choosing to identify as a feminist really mean? Is all of the above not enough, and you want to crush men even more?

      • “crush men even more” -laf :-) Ya, we are far out there, let’s pick it up some other time Hank.

      • MelThom says:

        Seriously? “The only gender gap in pay is based on personal choice…” As someone who actually does statistics on pay in higher education there is a definite gender gap and I certainly don’t believe it is my choice to make $20K less than someone with the exact same educational background and experience as myself. Is it my choice to work in higher education? Yes, but there is still an undeniable gender gap. Anyone who says there isn’t obviously hasn’t opened the paycheck of a woman.

      • Ahh … so finally we might know the truth. Just how is it that hiring managers, HR reps, CEOs and the like have ALL colluded together and organized a scheme in which they all pay women 20% less than men? Please, do share as that is the only explanation for this mythical phenomenon that would make any sense.

      • Bushrat says:

        More too the point, if it costs 20% less to hire a woman for the same job, why does any business bother employing men at all?

      • Bushrat, market forces?
        “why does any business noter employing mean at all” .
        Maybe for the same reason that executive board compensation and CEO-CFO-President compensation has sky-rocketed in the last 20 years, reaching anywhere from 150 to 300-Times (not percent) their average payroll in a fortune 100 company. They sit on each others boards and compensation committees, it has nothing to do with value since the value of the same companies has not increased even a fraction of that rate, or has decreased or they’ve been bankrupted or yes, bailed-out in some cases.
        Corporate structure, with the shielding of both investors and officers from the consequences of their actions, is not a good place to look for market-forces.
        .
        Small private business is a more even playing field, though of course still warped by government regulations. Those small businesses will employ whoever they can find to do the job Reliably and Well (bigger contributors to the bottom line than anything else) and if that’s a man, so be it, despite any salary difference.
        Most of my acquaintances from an ethnic community here have small businesses, how many women apply for short-order cook do you think? Or roofer, or garbage-collection…And yes, they’re in high demand if they do.

      • oooops “why does any business *bother* employing *men* at all” ..not *mean*, really! :-)

      • June O’Neill. Her research would seem to contradict your statements.

      • Keoni Galt says:

        Stefani is obviously concerned with the unhealthy ideal of feminine identity (“thin”) in our mass media driven culture and how it leads to women becoming ill trying to achieve it.

        Unfortunately, it appears that she has misidentified the root causes of it all and placed it the feet of “Patriarchy.” If she is honestly seeking the truth, I merely urge her to question her feminist-derived premises.

      • The thing is, what the media says and the actual facts on the ground two totally different things.

        Go out to a club tonight and ask 10 dudes what they want in a girl. I’ll bet dollars to donuts thing #1 will be “boobs”, closely followed by “butt”. The vast majority of guys don’t want a skinny-fat runway model.

        However, they also don’t want a land whale (i.e. > 25% BF). Problem is that almost half of girls are fat. As in, statistically obese: — 48% of US girls are OBESE!

      • Elenor says:

        +1 and a hearty round of applause!

      • Elenor says:

        (To Keoni, not to Hank!)

      • Galt, I didn’t read Stefani’s post that way, I don’t think her objective was “seeking the truth” regarding root causes, she identifies more than the cause of ‘patriarchy’ after all. Look at some of her responses in comments as well.
        .
        I think the whole point was to say look, no matter what the Societal influences, and actually no matter what numbers are used (BMI or BF%), it is up to women to get past them and discover how our bodies feel their healthiest. It’s a message of empowerment. Every woman who’s measured her own BMI and BF% before and after losing weight can guesstimate that the healthy feel is at around 22-25% BF, which, depending on musculature, will be in the low-to-mid 20’s in BMI.
        Well, This range happens to be peak attractiveness too, more hour-glass than either ripped or twiggy. The key is for women to correlate that healthy feeling with the attractive one – that’s what’s not been happening (many women think they are attractive only if either twiggy or, in the paleo-sphere, if ripped) and Stefani did a great job of identifying that.

      • Oh Hank, numbers! I like to look at numbers. You should too, look at them that is.
        Not quote blindly.
        The site you reference then references the WHO site which references as original sources for each country’s data certain surveys. Now if you click on the survey you are actually referring to, you’ll find most fields blank – the source site (the WHO info database) does actually state that it is an ongoing project, continually updated.
        If you click on 2010 data, you’ll get this page at the same WHO database :
        https://apps.who.int/infobase/Indicators.aspx
        which shows obesity (BMI>30) incidence for females, age 15-100, as 29%….much more like what you’ll get from CDC data (slightly lower, which is expected because WHO goes to 15 yrs old for ‘adults’ and CDC goes to 20yrs old).
        Why look into it? Because if you haven’t been living under a rock, the CDC publishes a map, county by county of overweight and obesity incidence that gets trumpeted in the media and projected at nearly every symposium/meeting in paleoworld/LC world/diet world and beyond. It did so this year, with the stats for 2009-2010.
        The national total for 2010 for US adults over 20 yrs old was 35.75% obese (not that this is a good percentage). There is a slight difference in stats counting between the maps and the data brief, but not relevant.
        The CDC shows men and women data too, one extra click you’ll find that between all men and women, the incidence is not statistically different, and in fact for ‘young’ men and women ages 20-39, the men have slightly higher obesity incidence, at 33.2% for men vs. 31.9% for women. Here : http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db82.pdf

      • “However, they also don’t want a land whale (i.e. > 25% BF). ”

        Exactly what she’s writing about. 25% BF is NOT a land whale. It’s NOT unhealthy. I’m at 25% BF. I stand 5’9″ tall and weigh 140 lbs, with measurements of 37-26-40. Ya get that? 26″ waist and you want to call me a “land whale”? It’s not just women who are driving women to get down to <20% BF. It's a whole lot of men like yourself. I see it ALL THE TIME.

      • Anna K. says:

        Kim, how did you measure your BF?
        based on this:
        http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/
        you bf is about 21.

        I think the big confusion also comes from different ways of measuring and estimating BF. Some use simple calculator as above, which is very limited, some use more accurate means.

      • I’ve used a variety of different ones. The results for those that consider not just weight/height but also measurements like neck, bust, hips, waist, wrist, etc. peg me at around 24-26%. The calculators that only look at weight/height fail to calculate in that I’m small-boned for my height, so there’s less skeletal weight and more in my hips/butt/thighs area.

        I know I’m healthy. I eat almost 100% paleo, all real whole foods. I also feel that my height/weight are at a healthy level. I’ve actually been the same height weight ever since I was 13 years old – – and I’m 31 now! It’s just very annoying to read the often-repeated “25%+ BF is FAAAAAAT” bit from men in the paleo world. I probably eat cleaner than they do (it would be hard not to, since I virtually NEVER cheat), but because they’re guys and effortlessly drop to a much lower BF than I do, they like to congratulate themselves on being “healthier” than someone like me.

      • Anna K. says:

        Kim, you must be the exception, rather then the rule. Most women with 25% body fat don’t have 26 inch waist. like this typical picture:
        http://www.leighpeele.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/body-fat-percentage-pictures-female.jpg

        so when men think that 25% BF is obese, they are not talking about you, so you shouldn’t take is so personally.

      • Bodyfat percentage is not the same thing as BMI. She has a BMI of 21 and a bodyfat percentage of 25%. BMI is a height:weight ratio, BF% is the weight of your fat divided by the total weight of your body, which does not map directly to BMI.

      • Well, actually…. if Kim has some mediterranean or middle-eastern genealogy, yup, that is is about right.
        I know a certain 5ft.7in. 45-yr old of mixed mediterranean descent who has a 28 inch waist at 27% BF, measured professionally, which, btw, only ever went up to 32 inches when she was 25lbs overweight at 35%BF (!) -genetics matter. Unfortunately that distribution will probably continue to change approaching menopause and beyond.
        The pictures on that web sit, btw, are not typical in any sense of the word, the numbers are whacked. If they were quoting BMI rather than BF, they’d be closer to reality -the one on the right at “30%” with a wider waist than hips is clearly obese, which is a BMI of 30 (not a BF of 30%).
        I’m done playing with numbers for one post, but I know you can look into it fairly easily if you’ve interested. And do be careful about BMI and BF% -you conflated them further up.

      • Do you know what the “>” symbol means? Here’s a little elementary school math refresher for you: it means greater than.

        Re read my statement above — 25% BF is just fine and healthy. It’s when you get above that that problems start to arise.

      • +marie: OK, so 30% are obese and another 20% are just “overweight”. Doesn’t change the fact that there is a good chunk of fat people.

        Like I’ve stated over and over and over — most guys don’t like rail thin, or skinny fat. What they don’t like is fat, with fat rolls — and that’s what tends to happen over 25% BF.

      • Suzanne H says:

        More than 25% BF is not a “land whale”. 25-31% body fat is “Acceptable” 32% + is obese. Whether you personally have different preferences and only think women who fall into the “Fitness” or “Athletes” category are attractive then that’s your prerogative. However, those in the acceptable range aren’t fat despite what your personal preference is. http://www.bmi-calculator.net/body-fat-calculator/body-fat-chart.php

        Then again, you might be doing the very thing that you accused Stefani of and getting BMI and BF mixed up. A BMI of over 25 is considered overweight.

      • Yes, I can read. The numbers I’ve gotten for myself from various calculators range from 24-26%. So I’m either “just fine and healthy” (24-25% BF) or “a land whale” (26% BF), depending on which calculator you use. Even if I am at the bottom end, a gain of just 2.8 lbs would put me in “whale” territory – – at 5’9″ and 143 lbs.

        My point was that this is the EXACT attitude I see all over the paleo forums. Guys who eat 80% paleo and effortlessly drop down to 15% BF telling women who eat 95% paleo that they’re “doing it wrong” because they plateau at 25% BF. Maybe the very different results are telling us something – – that our idea of what optimal health looks like is wrong.

        I say “bravo” to the author for writing this!

      • Holy crap friends, I’ve responded to this claim already.
        I don’t believe that patriarchy is responsible for the thin ideal, but I do believe patriarchy is responsible for the lack of research and attention to female health needs, which in turn precludes women from really engaging their health needs–ie, being a healthy weight, in the face of social norms, etc.

      • Kim, yes. A lot of this discussion has focused on people at their original weights–ie, the women in Russia above–but the real problem is with weight LOSS. Women who lose weight are changing their metabolic and hormonal milieus. This improves up to a point, but decreasing too far off of what a woman is programmed to handle (due to her development) causes real health issues. Hence why women at 18 percent BF might be totally healthy but I am not since throughout my whole life I was higher.

      • Stefani, that’s what i got from your post. Actually, you were more than clear on that. As a warning, folks here like to chase rabbits and this rabbit happens to be feminism.

      • Shelley says:

        Kate – you’re too funny!! You know the commenters too well and know that it won’t be long before it deviates into something totally different than the original intent! but that’s what makes it so much fun and totally works well with my ADD. :-)

      • paleo_sphere says:

        Well, according to the same statistic, 44% of the over 15 males in US are obese too. Thing is, a female( obese or not ) doesn’t necessarily make the weight a principal factor in choosing a mate, whereas the male does. I have seen combinations of athletic women with obese men but never the opposite.

    • I came across a really great article on feminism recently:

      It includes a detailed history of feminism (the most balanced I’ve seen anywhere). It then breaks down specific reasons why while feminism may have some good elements, as a whole the movement has deep problems.

      Highly recommended.

      • I agree, that article is a really balanced view that gives feminism some credit but still talks about where the author thinks it goes wrong. Thanks for sharing.

    • I refuse to let collectivists own feminism, thanks. The great thing about ideas is they don’t have to be dogmas. You can collect them, reflect on them, and add your own ideas to them. I am a feminist because I believe women are historically disadvantaged and currently disproportionately underrepresented in positions of power and influence. From this point of agreement, there are numerous branches of feminism that propose a lot of different solutions, and yes, some of them are collectivists, but that doesn’t make me one. There are a lot of libertarian feminists who believe that historical legacy and context are real things that actually affect us without advocating for massive government overreach as a solution to that problem.

      • +1 !

      • Women are underrepresented in positions of power and influence by choice, not because others keep them down.

        NYT has a great article on this: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/26/magazine/26WOMEN.html

        There are two reasons you don’t see as many women in places of power:

        #1 – Most women don’t want to live the kind of hard-charging workaholic lifestyle required to get a top position.

        #2 – It takes decades to work yourself into a top position. The first generation of women with full equality is just starting to get the potential experience required to hit those positions.

      • Shelley says:

        Ok, Hank, reading some of the comments…

        “There are two reasons you don’t see as many women in places of power:

        #1 – Most women don’t want to live the kind of hard-charging workaholic lifestyle required to get a top position.

        #2 – It takes decades to work yourself into a top position. The first generation of women with full equality is just starting to get the potential experience required to hit those positions.”

        I believe this is very true. I have never been denied a promotion and have never felt slighted in pay and I have always worked in a male-dominated field (maybe I was their token female – just kidding!). My point is, I’m not a VP in the corporate world or a high-paid attorney in a firm, etc., for two main reasons (as stated in Hank’s article): 1) I don’t want it badly enough to put forth that amount of effort; 2) maternity leave and kids kind of muddle up the flying cross country, long hours, etc. Simply put, either put forth the effort or get out of the way for the others who do.

      • This. Exactly. For me too.

      • Michelle says:

        I watched Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk on this recently. It was very well done (enlightening and funny).

        http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html

        There are some more subtle effects that go beyond the two points you make above.

      • I’m rereading my earlier comment and I don’t see where I offered any explanation for why women are underrepresented in positions of power and influence. I simply stated that I believe it to be true, and noted that different branches of feminism have different ideas about what to do about it. You’re responding to an argument I did not make.

      • Well c’mon Emily.

        The whole antagonism is based on the premise that men and women are equal in aspiration and women are being held down.

        Men and women are different, primarily because they innately value different things and it’s what makes the world go round.

        Feminism, to me, has pretty much always been a scam designed to accrue unearned reward.

    • Okay, don’t call me a feminist. In my opinion, the broadest and best meaning of feminism (interpreted broadly in the world) is gender equality.

      • Where does this ‘equality’ come from? Prove it please. There is no equality in nature.

      • See my above post re equality as ‘representation as of equal value in a legal and societal context’. Nobody would deny litteral, material equality in body, mind and ability is a myth, be that in gender or elsewhere. But that’s not what’s being discussed.

        There is a common ideal that people should be free to pursue their own interests and life goals without external coercion or discrimination. That gets represented in the legal/social world as ‘equal rights’ – the laws of a society ought to apply to all, equally, without discrimination on race, creed, gender, sexuality, etc. Those laws ought to represent and affirm the needs of everyone, not just the privileged.

        Does that clear things up for you?

      • So what IS your idea of equality?

        A man and a woman both want to be fire fighters. Part of the qualifications is a tough physical test in which one must carry a 100 pound coil of water hose, while wearing full turn-out gear including helmet and mask, 100 yards in less than 2 minutes.

        Is it equality to reduce the weight or the distance so that the woman can complete the exercise? Or is it equality to say she cannot have the job if she cannot perform this task?+

        A man and a woman are vying for a project management position. She has more experience in related positions and holds a higher college degree. However, she is a single mom of 3 small children and the position requires frequent travel with stays away from home of 5 or more days on average. Often the heads up on travel is less than 24 hours. The man is single and can travel on a moments notice. Who should get the job? How does equality factor into this?

        These are real life scenarios that have come up at companies where I have worked. In the first scenario, the woman demanded an easier physical test to accommodate her lesser physical strength and endurance. Is that fair? Is that equality? What if it was a slight built man who had done no strength training ever and he made the same demands?

        In the second scenario, the woman got the position based on her experience and education. Two months later, she was needed on a client site the next day but said she could not go because of some need of her child. The client was very upset and nearly canceled their contract. She was moved to another position shortly after and the single man got the job on the next posting. He jets around the country taking care of the clients, she works 8 to 5 and goes home to her children. Now is this fair? What if instead of a woman with children, it was a single dad?

        Fair is a place where you find a ferris wheel and equal is a term in mathematics.

      • >Is it equality to reduce the weight or the distance so that the woman can complete the exercise?

        No. There is a clearly observable requirement to be able to pass this test. It’s stupidity to alter the test so that people who can’t pass it, can.

        Equality is that the woman is given the opportunity to attempt the test on equal terms to the man, and, if she does pass it, is treated int he same regard as a prospective male employee.

        >A man and a woman are vying for a project management position… etc.

        Again, the woman fails to meet the criteria for the position. As an aside, it is not by deign of her womanhood that she fails, but because she has commitments that leave her unable to fulfil the job requirements, just as if a single father was applying.

        In this situation, equality requires that she be considered for the position in the same light as a male applicant. Historically, there have been many times when a woman equally, or more qualified than a man is held back from a position with no other ‘failings’ other than that she is a woman. Equal rights and opportunities simply seeks to redress that.

        For what it’s worth, I agree that both of these situations are absurd. They make a mockery of a very serious attempt to redress inequality within society and become a bone of contention in the minds of people when they hear pro-equality discussion.

        I agree that the concept of fairness is taken too far (even more so here in the UK than in the US), and leads to absurd situations within society that give people a false sense of entitlement and cripple a competitive marketplace. But that doesn’t negate the role of equality.

        Simply, if you don’t believe in equality, does that mean to say you believe women shouldn’t be allowed a vote, or be given consideration for roles they’re fully capable of performing? Should I disregard your comments here simply because they’re made by a woman?

        Sure, there are many situations where a person’s body makes them unsuitable for a role, even when they might Really Really want to do it. As you say, life can be unfair. But, as with the examples in the paragraph above, we can clearly see times when equality or fairness make sense – times when the playing field is ought to be level, but we artificially tilt it through prejudice etc.

        It’s not a matter of changing the rules, and pandering to special interests, but ensuring that if someone *can* do something, they’re not held back from doing it by prejudice or bigotry. Judge people on their merits, not their gender, creed, race…

        Does that make sense to you?

      • “I agree that the concept of fairness is taken too far (even more so here in the UK than in the US), and leads to absurd situations within society that give people a false sense of entitlement and cripple a competitive marketplace. But that doesn’t negate the role of equality”

        Well put. It’s the squeaky wheel that gets oiled first. Then there are the majority of us who are thankful for the squeaky wheels of the past. Or I wouldn’t have gotten a typically male job as maintenance man. When it goes too far in the other direction, like I believe you said earlier, that’s when it becomes rediculous. The black man crying racism because he was pulled over for speeding. The feminists crying discrimination because they aren’t welcome into the boy scouts, the lesbian woman crying unfair when she isnt picked for the role of George Washingtion in a movie. But those are extremes….for the rest of us, we sit back and live our lives the best we can and try to deal with the absurdities of it all

      • Kate, well put too (from one of the rest to another :-))

      • Agreed. It’s sort of irrelevant that the single mom’s children are the reason she can’t travel. What if it was a man who was responsible for the care of an elderly parent? An owner of a rescue animal who does poorly in kennels? Or just someone who hates flying or staying in hotels? Being a mom isn’t a handicap or a disability, it’s a choice. If the position advertised itself as being 20% travel and she applied knowing she couldn’t do 20% travel, that was her own folly.

        Now, because women do tend to disproportionately bear responsibility for child-rearing because of biology, and because the products of good parenting are a collective benefit that all of society benefits from, I do think it’s reasonable for taxpayer money to fund things like childcare subsidies available to any household below a certain income, so that women and men alike (there ARE single dads, though admittedly a great deal fewer) don’t have to choose between child-rearing and paid employment if they would like to do both.

      • I think every penny of tax money ever collected was robbery.

  21. “This would be all well and good if a thin woman were actually the most optimally healthy woman.”

    This is the root of your problem. You’re confusing skinny fat girls (runway models — your idea of “thin”) with robust healthy women. Then you compare that against fat girls and assume it’s better to be fat than healthy.

    This also explains why you use BMI and BF% interchangeably, even though they are vastly different concepts.

    Take a look at this: — that might help you work out the difference.

    • I made sure to include BMI or body fat percentage in each number I quoted in the text in order to be clear about which measurement I was referring to. Some researchers use BF, some use BMI. Since we cannot correlate between the two, it’s impossible to convert, ergo I used both explicitly.

  22. A bit ironic — or maybe just highly annoying and stupid — that a couple men are taking up so much of the comment space criticizing feminism instead of commenting on the actual meat of the post. Which, by the way, was fantastic. Thank you, Stefani! It is so great to have your much needed perspective added to the paleosphere (whatever that is).

    I am 40 at 22% body fat and am having the most normal menstrual cycles of my life. When my BF % was in the teens I didn’t lose my period, but had short cycles, heavy flow, and horrible PMS. In many ways my health improved with low-carb paleo but new health problems developed and some others things got worse. Eating only paleo-ish, adding back more carbs (white rice, white potatoes, even some white sugar *gasp*), not training to momentary muscular failure (the goal of high intensity weight training), and allowing myself to gain some extra body fat have felt so much better for me. And my husband thinks I’m hotter now than when I had washboard abs.

    Again, thank you!

  23. Pauline says:

    I am interested in how women’s bodies have changed over the past century because of changes in how we eat, cook and the cues in our environment. I am viewing this from my own personal viewpoint and my daughters and the next generation. I look back on the body shape of my mother and two paternal grandmothers, Nana was very tall and painfully thin with arthritis in spine (Dutch descent) and the other much heavier overall with arthritis particularly in knees (I think there is Italian bloodline there). My mother was very slim until midlife. There is a trend for diabetes late in life. I am wondering how the war (my gran always spoke about the Great Depression and how hungry they were) and she had an emphasis on sweets, grains and Nana just cooked very simple, small farm-type meals from scratch. We are all affected by our changing environment Here is an interesting article on women’s body shape over the past century:
    .http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-84241/The-changing-shape-women.html
    Also our shopping habits have changed and being influenced by getting things to eat that is easy and relative simple to cook. Going Paleo this is one of the most direct things you have to do – cook for yourself I am always amazed at how the ready meal aisles in the UK has just grown enormously. Then there are the issues of stress, women feel the ‘weight’ of everything a lot more I think, including concern for our partners and children and the world at large. These stresses affect how we respond to food and how often our response is one of emotion. The other side of the coin is our profound need to feel power and control and the two can be at odds with one another.

    • That article is total bollocks, did you read it?

      • Pauline says:

        Its not a perfect article I have seen better, but it gives an overview of historical changes (very brief) of how and why we are less active, how size/shape has changed. Can you suggest a better one?

      • Pauline says:

        Not total bollocks because I relate to some of it and I didn’t grow up in England. I was never obsessed with weight/diet but have observed the generational women in my life and those I have known since my teens til now. But this is a particular area of interest for me so if you can recommend anything to read on it, there is not much out there and the article is very ‘light’.

      • Hi Pauline,
        No I can’t recommend a better article or book, sorry. Many of the “facts” in that article were in fact not “facts” at all. For example heart disease declined before the second world war and then went up during it (or just after can’t remember). Reading it back my comment is a bit rude and I apologise, maybe it’s the “Mail effect” or maybe it;s just more shitty journalism on the subject of weight and diet.
        British health throughout all those periods before the 1960’s was at it’s absolute nadir irrespective of height.

      • or weight

  24. The question burning a hole in my mind is …. how many unique vistors does arthurdevany.com get?

  25. Pauline says:

    To add to that food has become a major source of entertainment and I have noticed when in relationship usually both partners seem to look and eat the same, ie weight gain in couples. This is because eating together is one of the pleasures and the environment is totally geared to instantly gratify those pleasures in a myriad ways from restaurants, to take-aways, to meals designed for couples (main course, dessert, wine) two for the price of one in the UK. We are constantly invited to join in the sharing of our love with food. With the economy people are trying to get more out of there available spend. Very powerful stuff for our evolutionary brain which is always look for smart yet easy solutions in an environment that provides that without telling us the price we pay with our health. I think when you switch cultures as have you notice these effects most profoundly in your own health and in those around you.

  26. Pauline says:

    Also the pressures women put on themselves is far greater. We expect so much of ourselves, to be in top shape (whatever that means for you personally), run the family or step families like a well-oiled machine, be in tune to our lover’s needs most of the time, be able to market ourselves in terms of work demands, changes and any crisis on the job, shop and cook for our families plus stay in touch with friends and the extended tribe. A lot of expectation, a lot of stress and food can become an easy reward at the end of the day.

  27. Interesting info. I’ve passed this on to my female paleo buddies.

  28. All the “sexism” aside, Stefani, your article made a great point in advising us women to be more educated about our own needs when it comes to Paleo. It is up to us to find what we need to cover our own special needs. The male dominated blogs just dont do. With some exceptions like Mark’s. Women didn’t hunt, for the most part, we gathered.

    I am now a menopausal woman and my needs have changed. IF and strict Paleo helped me lose 30 pounds pre-menapause, but it isn’t working now. I actually haven’t found what will work for me now…but your post turned on my light bulb and has sent me in a different direction research wise. Thanks for that. I also shared this with my daughter now nursing her baby.

    • Yeah, I shared with my youngest daughter too, she came back from college with an extra 15 lbs and was ‘desperate’ to lose it .. at a 26inch waist in 5ft.6in frame.
      She’s extremely shapely and attractive in other words, not remotely overweight or unhealthy. But she also hasn’t grown yet that far from the intensely ‘thin-oriented’ popular teen culture, so she’s disregarding the ‘reactions on the street.’
      But this reminds me, a lot of teenage boys seem to go through an insecure phase where they do want their girls nearly stick-thin, somewhere in middle-school/early high-school, perhaps because the girls develop faster and some boys find it overwhelming, I don’t know.
      Unfortunately, this is also the age where girls are forming their body-image and maybe it’s one more thing driving long-term quests for an unhealthy ‘thinness’.

      • Hi Marie. First, thanks for your honest and fierce defense above. :) Secondly, I like your comment about insecurity both with young girls and young boys. This is something both genders grow out of, if perhaps to different extents, and depending on socioeconomic background, etc. Perhaps because I am closer to that generation, and I deal with that generation, more, I feel the power of the norm more than commenters, etc older than I am.
        In any case, I completely agree. Its as though the girls and boys are totally afraid of stepping outside of social norms whatsoever, such that their desires and their behaviors really conform. It isn’t until they experience the world and see how broad and different and powerful a wide variety of people can be that they open themselves up to exlploring their own unique tastes. This goes for body size as well as, for example, sex, oral sex, etc. People learning to define their own bodies and sexualities and identities.
        Very cool stuff. Thanks for the thought.

      • :-) and thank you for sharing so many insightful, much needed thoughts.

  29. Ironic that all the bitchy snarky sarcastic comments are from men. Why dignify them with responses?

    Why do they go to so much trouble to be insulting of women? That’s my only question.

    PS whatever cultural norms are, there are people who always break them. Successfully. Much more interesting to me.

    • “Why do they go to so much trouble to be insulting of women? That’s my only question.” She asks her fellow females while speaking of the subjects in third person.

      –This is kinda part of the problem.

      • I don’t see it as a problem, necessarily, I see it as a different solution. Sort of like my article. You can attack men, but what good is that going to do for your self esteem? Instead, why not work on your own self esteem and identity, and empower other women to do the same?
        Dismissal is a powerful tool sometimes.

      • I was a bit cryptic. The problem being to look to the proper source for the solution. That is not a gender issue. It is an issue of us weee humans. We humans that have managed to kill many of our great instincts (food cravings=need for certain nutrients which is fine until you rewire it with big macs) and and feed ones that have little upside and a big downside.

        She made a nice springboard and I felt the need to be funny in a “she was being ironic about irony.”

        Good article and discussion. I needed a bit of humor. So, I brought it. Everyone is welcome.

  30. Jason Blanchard says:

    As a male i find the fact that so many people got into a feminist debate and are worried about the stupid patriarchy aspect of the article are just ridiculous. even as a guy i got the fact that she was simply trying to say hey girls love yourself, get to a healthy weight that youre happy with but dont kill yourself because of how societies views are, the end. god people love complicating every fucking thing and trying to make themselves feel better by attacking the people who try to help in their own way, grow the fuck up.

  31. Thanks for writing this. I feel like many who read this just had a knee-jerk reaction to key words (“patriarchy….”BMI”..) and disregarded what you were trying to say. I heard other words like…peacefully, feircely, and freedom.

    I am now in my early fourties and finding a new way to relate to my body and diet. One that includes my definition of peace and freedom. It looks like accepting where I am and also striving for more health, energy and vitality. What I need to do to achieve my goals is constantly shifting. There is no one way, all the time. I live in a body that waxes and wanes, and my attempts at control are always futile.

    The answer is always nourishment. Everytime. Leaning into my fullest life and self. Taking ownership for myself beyond a magazine cover or critisizm by others. Loving and enjoying my life. Loving good food and the freedom that good health brings me.

    Thank you.

  32. Pauline says:

    Now I am going out on a limb because another thing which I believe influences weight – it is what your mother ate while you were in her womb. Your childhood set-up and what you family meals were like as you were growing up. What was on the table and how own parents knowledge or lack thereof of how food influences health. I watch my daughter’s generation and wonder how aware they are of how what they eat will affect their unborn children when they are pregnant. I am not sure if there is a tendency to become insulin resistant depending on the type and amount of carbohydrate in their diet and whether this can be passed on to their children. Its an interesting dilemma to ponder. There seems to be some research in the UK to indicate that dietary habits do influence the growing baby and the growing child after birth.

  33. Hello free the animal readers, I really enjoyed this blog post and the comment threads. Stefani, you have done something very important, and I hope you keep spreading the good word for men and women everywhere. MEN and WOMEN are very different. I think the 60’s 70’s and 80’s blurred this line. Prior to this gender roles had been established over thousands of years. Please do not belittle me for this statement, because in both of the defined gender roles both Sexes had equal amounts of HARD WORK TO DO. A woman’s work was probably more energy demanding and dangerous (ie constant gathering, carrying infants around, breast feeding infants, preparing/processing gathered/hunted food, lets not forget CHILDBIRTH). So as a man, hats of to all you ladies, it has been through your acts of sexual selection we developed our large brains to write on this comment thread. As for you guys, don’t let the media fool you into believing in the stick thin fallacy, 18-25% body fat is ideal for reproduction, and with that being said, was probably the body fat percentage of our female ancestors roaming free in Africa 50000 years ago.

    • Hey Ryan!
      Going to AHS? Have a date?

      • Stefani, I’m bummed that I had not checked up on the AHS earlier, but my name is now on the waitlist for tickets, hopefully I’ll get in! It’s a short drive down from Vermont.

  34. I thought this was a great and well written essay. For the past few years I’ve been trying to focus on feeling good and healthy without stressing out about the way I look or my size. It was a struggle at first but now I’m pretty much at peace with my body and instead of fighting it to jam it into a certain size clothing, we work together to live healthfully and happily. I can honestly say that this is the best I’ve ever felt and I agree that it’s important for everyone (men AND women) to love their bodies.

    I agree with the few people on here that have found it interesting that the majority of the comments have attacked Stefani for using “feminist-derived principles” and misidentifying “the root causes of it all and placing it the feet of Patriarchy”. Who cares? Perhaps those people should care a little less about picking apart the vessel and paying more attention to the point she is trying to get across.

    • The problem with the article is her choice to spend so much time droning about how women are put down and then making veiled (and not so veiled) put downs and jabs at men.

      Obviously, the point of the article is sound — a healthy weight for women is good, and runway models are skinny fat and unhealthy. Everybody already knows that. But why wrap it in the trappings of feminism when it could be simple, straightforward, and uncontroversial, like Ryan’s comment above?

      Of course, half of the point of blogging is to be controversial to increase traffic, so that probably explains it.

      • Are we reading the same article? I see 2-3 paragraphs out of about 20-25 total paragraphs talking about how the “Western ideal body type” for women is an unhealthy standard and one off-handed reference to “intrinsic Western patriarchy.” I don’t see any veiled put downs on men, nor do I think she spends “so much time droning” about it considering how little of the article it makes up. Would you care to quote any? (Pre-emptive disclaimer: “patriarchy” is not a synonym for “men,” it’s a word to describe a type of society that both men and women participate in; using the word patriarchy in no way amounts of man-bashing.)

      • Hank, you have math problems and reading comprehension ones, witness substantiated corrections to your direct errors made above by other commenters and now a correction to an indirect one too.
        Let it go man, it’s not about feminism and certainly not about your antediluvian version of feminism.

      • Apparently, you totally missed the headline: “No One’s Power but Our Own: Paleo Sexist Woes, and an Invitation to Rise Up and Roar”

        Clearly, the main thrust of the article is “Paleo Sexist Woes”, girl power, rah rah.

      • Shucks, you’re right, I musta missed that when I concentrated on reading the article, then asking Stefani and.. listening to her answer.
        Funny that.
        .
        So that’s what the title meant by sexist , not the lack of female physiology studies or the inadvertent focus in the paleo world on what is mostly male health.
        .
        And girl power of course can only be defined as opposed to boy power, not the girls’ power to determine their own optimal health.
        .
        Ya you’re very right this time Hank, I totally missed that.

      • Shelley says:

        Hank, don’t worry, I don’t think all women can be considered feminists. Most, I hope, are not expecting anything unearned for just being born into their gender. I know there are plenty of examples, such as the woman who wants her contraceptives paid by the government, but I hope that’s just the exception. Only those women who think/feel in a feminist way will read more into that title and I don’t know if there’s any point in arguing with them about it because they’ll probably get all emotional on you. :-)

        When I look at the title in light of her article, I look at it as positive and not as an infringement upon males.

      • You’re right — I’m being a bit over touchy on this article. Sorry.

        As a guy, a libertarian, and an advocate of equal rights for all, the constant onslaught of feminism becomes annoying. Sometimes I just snap and spend some time spewing facts.

      • It’s just your masculinism showing.

      • Shelley says:

        I certainly get what you’re saying, though!

      • Shelley says:

        Hank, I certainly get what you’re saying, though! The constant moaning is extremely annoying and it’s something that I cannot comprehend (even being female).

      • Hi Shelley,
        It seems from your comment that you think feminism is about women triumphing over men, and “expecting anything unearned for just being born into their gender?” I want NOTHING in my life unearned, but I am a feminist. Feminism, in a broad sweep, and as undertaken by many women, is about equality, nothing more. Very few women are feminists in the Limbaugh’s “feminazi” sense, and this whole skewed notion of feminism, imho, does a lot of harm to what really has the power to be a peaceful and happy term.

      • Shelley says:

        Hi Stefani – I agree, and I truly didn’t get a feminazi vibe from your article and that comment was not skewed towards you in any way. Unfortunately, though there are many feminazi’s who do believe in getting things that are unearned, and they are a lot louder than the rest of us!

      • >As [...] an advocate of equal rights for all

        Oh, so you *are* a feminist after all? :-)

        People are selfish (in a good way). They focus largely on the issues closest to them, because those are the issues that are mos easily apparent to them.

        Many white, middle class males focus on economic freedom from government coercion int he form of taxes, because that’s what presents an obvious restraint to them. Many black people are acutely aware of the issues of racist and cultural prejudice which hold them back. Many women have direct and clear awareness of the myriad ways in which our society often treats them as second-class citizens.

        Is the white, middle class man against equal rights? Nope. The Black person? the woman? No, none of them are. Just because people focus on a specific area of restricted freedom relevant to their place and experience, doesn’t mean they’re not part of the broader fight.

        And sure, many feminists end up at collectivism, as do many blacks, or white middle class men who worry about coercive powers. But that’s a secondary response to a primary observation. In the case of feminism, the primary observation remains valid, and the secondary responses remain varied, some obviously less valid than others.

        I know of some very stupid libertarians who advocate all sort of nonsense (a ‘libertarian’ CEO of a bank here in the UK demanding a state-bail out, for instance) but does this invalidate all of libertarianism? Of course not. It’s the same situation with feminism – multiple schools coming from a broad term. It’s unfair and unconsidered to tar them all with the same brush.

  35. I’m motivated almost entirely by vanity myself. I care about health in the sense that I don’t want to crap blood, have a swollen liver, stuff like that, but generally health isn’t a great motivator for me which is why I don’t bother with things like blood tests.

  36. Randy M says:

    Interesting article. I’ll point it out to my wife. I don’t think the ‘patriarchy’ reference was mainly towards beauty standards, but rather scientists overlooking women’s differences. As was said, interchangeability of genders isn’t a feature of patriarchy, but I don’t think it is ideological in origin in any case, but rather, as you also mentioned, scientists trying to avoid confounding variables, and then rushing to assume the implications beyond where the data would lead.

    In our society we have both conflicting messages (which I think women are more susceptible to) of relentless self-improvement as well as unconditional self love, both of which can be damaging.

  37. Pauline says:

    Women notice how much notice they get from men. When you carry uncomfortable weight you become less visible and our antennae are always sensing feedback from others and ourselves. A women’s power is inside her head. How she feels about herself and her body affects that inner confidence. Her confidence is her power. When she feels like this she has to do nothing but be herself and men sense this and are drawn like a bee to the full scent of a flower. I think women are sharing very honestly how they feel. I have always wondered what was happening to the paleo women out there, why was no-one writing articles that I could read about how difficult and different it is to master ourselves in these areas. I am grateful to Stefani for raising the issues.

  38. Conscious Kitty says:

    Great article! I have been thinking about some of the advice in the paleosphere and have found certain things did not work for me. I’ve felt frustrated because I see so many others getting results through the same methods. I have learned to listen to my body and just accept that if it doesn’t work for me, then it doesn’t and try something else. Its just tinkering now, but I have learned to refuse to increase my stress in exchange for diet strategies. Its just not worth the trade off. I now I eat healthy, if I have too much sweet potato, or even indulge with a potato and sour cream every now and again, its just a choice. No need for self-loathing or criticism.

  39. Pauline, very well said. When I have that belly roll over my jeans, I’m very self conscious and fold my arms over it. That projects an either stand-off-ish persona, or Shyness. It’s true, we have more self confidence when we feel better about ourselves. My guy could care less if I have that belly roll, but I do.

  40. Another awesome article Stefani! It’s unfortunate that a few readers would rather promote their own (somewhat paranoid!) anti-feminist arguments then see your article for what it truly is– a message for women to embrace a healthier interpretation of the beauty ideal and practice a little self love. I am unclear as to why using your shared experience as a woman somehow implies that you want to start slinging tampons at men in an estrogen fueled rage, but whatever. Some would apparently rather play ideologically infused mind games then have a real conversation about the fact that women have different needs than men when it comes to health and well-being. Uh, our plumbing is a tad more complex, dudes, so props to Stefani for pointing out some of the scientific inconsistencies in the literature used to promote the ideal paleo diet.

    Just a few points: I have never been under the delusion that I could look like a supermodel/actress/porn star if I just tried hard enough. While I appreciate fashion and movies, I (like many people with a brain) understand that the point is to sell a fantasy, not to encourage little girls to love themselves no matter what. So, I really don’t give a shit about Hollywood or the fashion industry has to say about female body image or the ideal cup size/ass size/00 pant size. One should not seek lifestyle advice from an industry built on cocaine and 100 calorie snack packs. What I DO care about, however, is my health and the community of people who spend hours during the day researching the ideal dietary and lifestyle habits for the toxic shit-storm that is 21st century living. So, I do think it is VERY important for people who concern themselves with finding the absolute BEST possible way to awesome health to look at all of the angles when it comes to promoting things like IF and ketogenic diets. Again, thanks to Stefani for bringing up these important points– there are some inconsistencies in the ancestral health community with regards to women’s health and I think it is great that she is taking the time to research the issues and point out the problems.

    • Wow. Do you think you could pack in a few more sideways insults towards the guys? Honestly … men are not the only ones that are seeing through the veil of feminism for what it really is. The “patriarchy” statement was badly stated at best. Given the rest of the article, I will give it that. But the comments were spot on – given the worst case scenario, that it was yet again another screed of feminist hate. Men have withstood the slings and arrows (to put it very mildly) from feminists for decades and a good number are sick and tired of it. Men’s lives have been ruined by the accepted feminist dogma that paints them as overbearing, sex-driven pigs bent on enslaving women to a life of drudgery.

      I’m tired of it too. Yep, got me some ovaries and a uterus, but I have NO desire to be a part of the feminist clan. I am no victim, I do not blame the natural, God-given, inherent, inborn trait which makes men leaders of their marriages and households for any of my lack or failure. It would be like the oak tree griping that the pine tree stays green all winter while it loses its leaves, after griping about the crazy color changes it must endure in the autumn.

      Just remember … everything feminists think they have gained is ceded to them by men. It wasn’t “won” … it was GIVEN, and can be taken back.

      • Spot on.

      • Shelley says:

        “Men have withstood the slings and arrows (to put it very mildly) from feminists for decades and a good number are sick and tired of it. Men’s lives have been ruined by the accepted feminist dogma that paints them as overbearing, sex-driven pigs bent on enslaving women to a life of drudgery. ”

        I’m not too sure that women were the instigators in this movement – I may be wrong, but I have a hard time believing a man would allow his life to be ruined by a female. Could it possibly have been men (e.g., lawyers, politicians) thinking up a cause that they can use to gain more power and they start whipping women into this feminism frenzy thinking they’re gaining “rights” when, in fact, feminists are just the puppets having their emotional strings pulled and we’re all being played? Just a thought.

      • “Ruining men’s lives” … I was referring to the atmosphere of assumed guilt of men when it comes to rape, child molestation, sexual harassment, etc. I witnessed male co-workers being dragged through hell because some bitch decided she wanted to make a complaint, when the guy really didn’t do anything at all. “Nice dress” = harassment, or SHE starts the flirting and when he responds, BAM = harassment, and so forth. Lone men hanging out in a park are automatically assumed to be up to no good. Date rape – her word vs his, and she wins … always. The Duke Lacrosse team … nothing more need be said there.

        Our society now regards men as predators against women and children, and men who have been caught in this trap have paid dearly … losing jobs, families, lives.

        But yes, to a degree men have allowed this to happen … to appease women? Or perhaps they agree with the basic premises of feminist thinking but then it goes far out of control. It used to be that a rape victim was questioned on what was she wearing, why was she in that dangerous place, etc. Due to efforts by these women, that was changed, but now it has gone way far in the other direction … a man accused of rape is automatically guilty. Period, end of story, throw him in jail and throw away the key.

        Opposition to modern feminist principles is dangerous. They are numerous, they are organized, they are powerful and they will not cede a thing to anyone. I have publicly made statements against feminism and have been met with outrageous hatred, vitriol and even threats – but all that’s online. In real life, friends have turned their back on me, because I do not agree with the feminist agenda. In the larger public arena, the political power wielded by feminists is immense. To wit, the contraceptive mandate in which Catholic employers may be forced to violate the church doctrine and cover birth control costs in the insurance policies they provide employees. Just think about that … feminists have the power to get the government to violate Constitutionally protected rights.

        We have come a long way, baby … but a good number of people – male and female – don’t really like where we are.

      • Shelley says:

        Oh yes, Lissa, in that way you are right and it is very painful for everyone. I think it has gotten out of hand, but then again, don’t all political/social causes? To me, all of these social causes seem to come down to 1) gaining power by a few by weakening others; and 2) collecting portions of the other’s earnings.

      • Google for all the stories about fathers being stopped by police because they were out with their own daughter, in a car, in a park, taking a walk. People now immediately call this stuff in as suspicious activity.

      • paul d says:

        Lissa,

        In a nutshell, from a man’s perspective, you are just a dam awesome woman!!!

        I too have fought with male friends over their attitudes to women, and been derided etc, ostracised. Fuckem!!!!!

        Some of my dearest female friends are radical feminists.

        Stefani,

        Thanks so much for this post. A really big learning for piece me. Was not aware of the depth and breadth of the downstream impacts of excessive and unnatural weight loss in women. Thank you so much.

        I will never see a six pack ABS fitness model in the same way again. Ouch!!!!! Either extreme (excessively fat or excissively thin) has its health issues, just different ones.

      • Barbara says:

        Thank you for what you have said here. Right on!

      • There’s some extreme cherry-picking of examples going on here, as well as some blatant inaccuracies.

        “It used to be that a rape victim was questioned on what was she wearing, why was she in that dangerous place, etc. Due to efforts by these women, that was changed, but now it has gone way far in the other direction … a man accused of rape is automatically guilty.”

        Are you taking crazy pills? Only 25% or reported rapes result in arrest, and only 40-50% of the rape cases that make it to trial return a guilty verdict (https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/Abstract.aspx?id=77278). By comparison, 79% of reported murders and 51% of reported assaults result in arrest. There is no automatic guilt, and victims are very much still assumed to be “nuts or sluts” before the man is assumed to be a rapist. Simply complimenting a woman’s dress is not harassment and no court is likely to actually hold up any such charges even if they are made. The legal standard to prove a “hostile workplace” is a very high bar to meet and the woman has to demonstrate that the complimenting was 1) a persistent pattern and 2) interfering with her ability to do her job. If she can’t prove those two things, she won’t win her case. A few anecdotes of some men you know who were treated poorly doesn’t change the larger statistical picture.

      • When one resorts to personal slights and attacks, I refuse to engage in any further discussion. Take it to the playground where that sort of thing is appropriate. But I will say that for those anecdotal men, I bet the statistics don’t matter for squat as they stand in the unemployment line, having been falsely accused of harassment or inappropriate behavior by overly sensitive women conditioned to assume that any man is looking at her as merely a sex object. I have no use for women like that or the gender feminists who created them.

      • Did I already say this already?

        Men are being reported around the counry for taking their daughters out for a walk or an ice cream. Molester. Look it the fuck up, people.

        Fuck all the politicians, including Obama and his bitch, for feeding onto this sort of thing rather than calling a halt to it, which they would be in the best position to do.

        And yes, they feed into it. They fuckimg love every second of it, because it’s divissive.

        Fuck Obama and his stupid bitch.

        Oops, I definitely know I said that already.

        Tosssing you a bone: fuck Bush, and his daddy too.

      • You really are an asshole.

      • Yea, I know.

        And people who spend their lives vying for prestige and the power to force others in the millions to their will are just furry cuddle toys.

        Moron.

    • “Date rape – her word vs his, and she wins … always. The Duke Lacrosse team … nothing more need be said there.”

      Lissa – Let me be the first to tell you from experience that your date rape comments are not accurate. At all. More often than not, the woman is villified as a result of the trial, with any past sexual history used to discredit and humiliate her. In addition, the Duke lacrosse players were eventually exonerated and quite a few people lost their jobs because of that whole situtation.

      Further, please do not confuse feminism, or even a strong, independent woman, with any woman who would make up a claim of rape or sexual harassment for her own gain. Anyone who would do that is just plain crazy, and I’m sure this did not just start happening, occurrences are certainly more visible, though, in our modern-day, overexposed, litigious society. Also, I’m sure every woman throughout history who has fought battles – whether mental, physical, or legal – to get you and I the right to vote, the right to work outside the home, hell, the right to play sports, etc. – would not appreciate your diatribe against the feminist cause, which is, at its heart, equality for men and women. There are fanatics at every level of every cause, but let’s call them what they are and avoid the sweeping generalizations.

      Stefani – great article. As a previous poster stated, while very information-dense, it was well-written, and exactly what I needed to read today.

  41. Step one: turn off tv, stop buying mags, reduce shopping time and cut the negative gossip with girlfriends.

    I am a man, but don’t think my advice carries any less weight.

  42. Awesome article. I think this is a wonderful post and I am going straight over to your blog. Thanks also to Richard for giving voice to this. And for all those women calling other women ‘feminists’ and lambasting them for it – get a view on history. Understand that you wouldn’t be where you are today without the feminist movement. Understand that you wouldn’t be allowed to use your ‘family computer’ to engage with people and write this stuff if it weren’t for your ‘feminist’ forbearers who fought for you to be recognised as an equal in the eyes of the law. No man bashing required.

    • Shelley says:

      LisaW, I myself am very thankful for equal rights under the law, and I believe that for every aspect of life in addition to gender. The problem in my eyes seems to be that people take it too far past equal rights.

      How do you equalize pay? If an employer blatantly pays completely equal people except gender different salaries, then the choice comes down to one must either accept it or leave it. there should be no government interaction at this point.

      Does it mean that if you choose to stay at home with your children that when you come back into the workforce 15 years later, you should be paid the same amount as the guy who’s been there over those years?

      Where does it say that taxpayers must pay for women’s contraceptives? What is equal about that in comparison to men’s rights?

      Does equality mean that there must be 10 females for every 10 males in a company just to keep it equal? Does equality mean that a job is guaranteed for every female?

      Frankly, I’ll be quite honest – I was an army brat – and I still to this day don’t believe that women belong in the military – in particular the Marines or any other combat-type position. Now, I love that kind of stuff more than anything; I love engineering; I love taking risks; I love the idea of being a test pilot, but I’m a female and I believe that neither I nor anything other female belongs in that type of environment. so, hate me, it doesn’t bother me a bit, but it causes more stress and tension in already stressful and tense environment for both males and females.

      We are individuals with free will and the sooner we all realize that, the happier we will all be.

  43. I think of myself as a humanist rather than a feminist. People matter, individually and in groups (whether they are male or female or hermaphrodite). Playing the game of pitting one group against another erodes the individual and drives natural competition (for mates, etc.) to become more destructive. We all have something to contribute to our various communities. We are all “needed” (though we are not all necessary: when accidents happen, the world will keep turning without us; still, that is no reason to give up and commit suicide or homicide now).

    I wish we could arrive collectively at a place where it didn’t matter what gender or ethnicity or religio-political affiliation a person happened to be born into. I wish we could respect ourselves as people — respect ourselves enough that we wouldn’t care what harsh critics might say to denigrate us, enough that we wouldn’t feel a need to meet that kind of criticism with bitter partisan strife. I don’t hate people who disagree with me. When someone does me wrong, I don’t automatically assume that every person who reminds me of him (or her) must automatically be an evil asshole. I wish everyone well and do my best to treat everyone with respect. I am not above making fun or assigning blame, when I feel it is warranted, but I actively invite others to laugh at me and blame me, too, when circumstances warrant (as they often do!).

    I wish we didn’t turn our relationships into power struggles. I don’t think it is the fault of any one gender or race or society that we do. To a certain degree, which we are still working to define, it is (unfortunately) just a part of human nature. But that does not mean that we have to accept it in its worst form. We can push back against one another without killing each other, without hating each other. I think the happiest future of these conflicts is one in which we all have a greater tolerance for harsh words (like “cunt” or “cocksucker” or the various racial slurs that every society comes up with for people it instinctively fears and loathes), and a lesser tolerance for irrationally harsh actions (you can call me whatever you please, but lynching me for no other reason than that you find me scary-looking is beyond the pale: to stoop to such criminal shenanigans is to invite the worst parts of human nature to run rampant). The more people can move in the realm of moral argument, the less they should have to move in the realm of physical violence. The more articulate their sense of self and of their own morality, the less need they feel to impose it perforce on those around them. (This seems to be true of both men and women, and of all historical nations/races of which I am aware.)

    I support and believe in the humanity of women, just as I support and believe in the humanity of men (and children). I support the humanity of people from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. We just people, no more and no less. Sometimes we are silly. Sometimes we are serious. Sometimes, we are sad, and yes, sometimes we pass that sadness on to others in ways that can be destructive. The solution to this problem is not brand this gender or that one as criminal, but to slow and down notice what is actually happening. What makes us treat each other badly? What drives our mistrust, our fear, our mutual hostility? The more we look at this, I think, the less destructive our aggression ends up being: it does not disappear, but it does find more rational targets. We do not have to hate each other to live, certainly not to live well.

  44. Also, Richard, I should have been clear: I used compete.com for my web analytics.

  45. I think the differences between men and woman is well addressed in the paleosphere. I know of several threads on MDA that address woman specifically and there are others on many other sites I follow. I think the contributions from the sexes most times show a split in effectiveness.

  46. Since there are several digressions in the comments, I will provide linky links for those of you who like to, well, clicky click.

    Evolvify’s ditty about attractiveness and what not:

    http://evolvify.com/why-your-girlfriend-wants-to-cheat-on-you/
    (Hormones, Moves Like Jagger, and oops-I did it again)

    http://evolvify.com/female-attractiveness-waist-hip-ratio/
    What sir Mix-a-lot got wrong about beauty and attraction

    http://fora.tv/2006/11/17/Female_Brain
    -The female Brain (via Andrew)

    http://evolvify.com/against-caveman-toward-darwinian-feminism/
    “The temptation to form in-groups and out-groups along lines of gender, ethnicity, education, running skills, or other coin flips is a curse of a stone age brain in an information age world. Yielding to such temptations will invariably lead to error. The unbearable lightness of paranoia that accompanies postmodernist cynicism is a direct path to your own distracted energy. You’re all formally invited to ditch the postmodern feminist doomsday machine for a refreshing trip to the history of the Galapagos…”

    Enough. Sir Andrew has been traveling the arctic as of late and I thought link love about womenz (yes he has several about men) would be appropriate.

  47. Well done on the article writer being visible in the thread and Big Papa D smooth rollin with it all.

  48. I am woman, hear me roar
    In numbers too big to ignore
    And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
    ’cause I’ve heard it all before
    And I’ve been down there on the floor
    No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

    Oh yes I am wise
    But it’s wisdom born of pain
    Yes, I’ve paid the price
    But look how much I gained
    If I have to, I can do anything
    I am strong (strong)
    I am invincible (invincible)
    I am woman

    • Shelley says:

      and I can bring home the bacon…fry it up in the pan…and never ever let you forget you’re a man. Cause I’m a woman…

      • Shelley says:

        But this was my all-time favorite Helen Reddy:

        Lovers appear in your room each night
        And they whirl you across the floor
        But they always seem to fade away
        When your daddy taps on your door
        Angie girl, are you all right
        Tell the radio good-night
        All alone once more, Angie Baby

        Angie Baby, you’re a special lady
        Living in a world of make-believe
        Well, maybe

      • Careful. Bid D doesn’t like poetry

      • Revolutionary Dreams

        I used to dream militant dreams
        of taking over america to show
        these white folks
        how it should be done

        I used to dream radical dreams
        of blowing everyone away
        with my perceptive powers
        of correct analysis

        I even used to think I’d be the one
        to stop the riot and
        negotiate the peace

        then I awoke and dug
        that if I dreamed natural
        dreams of being a natural
        woman doing what a woman
        does when she’s natural
        I would have a revolution.

        ~Nikki Giovanni

      • 70’s flashbacks … and then there’s Maude

  49. Great, great post that really put out there what few people are saying. I had always wondered why I never results quite as good as everyone said you should expect from IF. Did get great appetite suppression and other little bonuses, but yeah, not much fat loss.

    • Emma

      This is the first comment that really gets to the gist of where I may not be all on board with Stenafi on all of her post (I never gave a shit about the “paternalism” many seem to be up in arms with–I guess ’cause I’ve seen her around and if she was a “give me shit because my ancestors were oppressed” type, she wouldn’t have a guest post on my blog; pass).

      I think all human beings have to have the ability to go hungry and if so, what works for women, men, individuals? There’s more. Does IF tend to cause women to undereat chronically rather than, as I say, packing 7 days of food into 5-6 days?

      There’s more. But I don’t buy the idea that women had some evolutionary dispensation where they never had to go hungry and doing so intermittently could be harmful.

      But, I would say this: unless obese or very overweight, IF should never be a means to undereat, for me or women.

      • Anna K. says:

        I also don’t see why IF could be harmful to women.
        Many women commented that they enjoy IF. You can add me to that list.
        Btw, there are many other reasons to do IF besides weight loss, autophagy being one great example.

      • “..unless obese or very overweight, IF should never be a means to undereat…”. That’s interesting, do you mean you don’t think it’s a good/healthy way of cutting calories for Moderate-Small weight loss? Because it’s what I still do 3 days a week in April to drop the ‘winter 5′ and it works like a charm -is there a danger? I’ve always related the typical spring fasting in western religions (which are above the equator) with the same benefit, but I no longer remember why. The rest of the time I do it 1-2 times a week, just for the health benefits and how good I feel, no weight loss.

      • “That’s interesting, do you mean you don’t think it’s a good/healthy way of cutting calories for Moderate-Small weight loss?”

        IF is a blunt instrument. That is, rather than measure out portions meticulously every day to get a 300-500 kcal deficit and lose fat slowly over time, you just wing it, go a 2000-2500 deficit in a day, eat to satiation other days and figure that the hunger reset that typically happens gets you that deficit anyway.

        I think that where people get into trouble with IF is that they don’t trust themselves. Or, IF is so effective in psychologically curing your go to the fridge or cabinet at all times impulses, then people undereat a lot. This causes problems—not for all but for some, and it seems women might be the most vulnerable.

        I know that when I did 30 hours fasts twice per week for a long time, I had no concern about how much I was eating on the other days and I suspect I had many, many 6,000 cal + days.

      • Yes, I see what you mean. The danger to tip into a near-anorexia is very real for some women.

      • Pauline says:

        Intermittent Fasting has always been a mixed experience for me. If I fast at night I feel more hyped up before sleep, if I fast in the am I tend to overeat later in the day. It seems to drive my hormonal hunger all over the place. So I have never been able to do it consistently. If I can stay within a fixed window of eating that seems to work better, maybe my body gets used to particular hormonal hunger signal when meals are more regular. I would like to hear more from other women regarding their experience of this. And I am very intersted in how Marie managed to gain 25 pounds then lose all that weight in a year and not put it all back on.

      • Me too!

      • Oh oh Pauline, be careful what you wish for, it’s a long story. I was trying to fight it all the while that I was gaining, so plenty of false starts. It took a year once I got the process right for me, with a lot of tweaking during that year. Maybe we should connect offline somehow? I’m thinking a direct twitter message to “marie curieous” @mariecurieous on twitter should do it, if you want. It’s a private account, I don’t tweet :-)
        Basically it comes down to getting off the sugar roller-coaster, thus being able to naturally reduce calories, with careful Effort but without suffering, and employing some measured fasting to retrain hunger cues,. Activity was important, with Slow weights +long walks + HIIT runs to correct the muscle loss and retrain fiber engagement….and standing more, not sitting at desk more than a hour at a time.
        There were a few details that really helped, like keeping food journal, which I still do and always will.
        I have an unusual advantage in that the biochemists down the hall from me were very supportive so I had open access to testing (lipids, inflammation markers, etc, glucose -eventually got home monitor for that, extremely useful when trying new things -also my gym does metabolism testing and BF%).
        It’s ironic that I’d gotten on the glucose roller-coaster in the first place because I don’t like sweets…um, well, except chocolate! It was the hidden sugars and other excess processed carbs (eg.chips!, breads) that had me craving food every few hours and making me extremely, outrageously irritable otherwise -that’s what clued me in to the problem.
        Once I restricted myself to shopping on the outside perimeter of the super-market (fresh and frozen, not processed, no grains) it cured the problem in about a month. Then it’s possible to reduce calories without crying. It’s also easier to ease into a fasting routine. Read everything I could, amassed quite the library at home and on tablet and lap-top.
        MDA and FTA were treasure-troves of info and leads.
        Maintenance is easy with an approximately alternate-day-fast every spring to drop the ‘winter 5′ each year and i just don’t eat grains. But do potatoes and other carbs, at will. I also try to fast once-twice a week the rest of the year mainly because it feels good (extra energy in the afternoons) , though I’ll sometimes go for a couple weeks without yet see no backsliding. It’s easy to make it a natural part of life once you’re at the point of enjoying it.
        For myself, eating mostly paleo-moderate carb is critical for the maintenance, the food journal too and I suspect the fasting helps regulate hunger long-term as I get older. I’m also fascinated by all the longevity studies for fasting, so I plan on keeping this up.
        …wow, and that was the summary! Sorry for boring anyone else :-)

      • NO not boring. Reading other people’s experiences is crucial to helping us figure out what will work for ourselves. I gained 15 lbs since December, with not so strict Paleo as diet. Then menapause hit full force and I can’t do what I did before. It isn’t working. Last time I dropped weight in a matter of weeks. Now…..nothing. My question is how long do you fast…say in April. 12 hours, 18? Or a day? And when you break your fast, do you eat more or go back to your regular foods? Standing up more is important, I’m sure. I sit now more than I did before. New job, etc. I like Richard’s podium idea for his computer. Am looking for one.

        Marie, thanks for sharing.

      • Pauline says:

        I identify with bread, within an hour of eating I am so irritable, and my partner is the same. We don’t eat it often, so always easy to spot. The IF is what I am really interested in. How do you do it and get it to work for you. I am finding my food journal very useful for feedback. Just trying to tweek things at the moment. It is a slow journey and I like you want to not just lose but keep it off. I am not interesting in dieting per se, but finding a way to eat that is lifestyle and not too hard on my head and heart. I think I have a problem with starch, even potatoes/rice which is a pity. But I am still working it out. I prefer email as I haven’t got a twitter account.

      • Pauline says:

        Yes very interested in the sugar-carb/glycemia roller-coaster which is probably key, I think as you get older insulin is definitely a problem producing stress responses to food together with cravings/ hormonal hunger. Maybe for younger people this can happen too depending on how much food/calories/carbs/reward they have in their diet.

      • Pauline says:

        Someone quoted Seth Roberts saying that standing improved his quality of sleep as a surprising side effect. Yes, I sit at my computer a lot and am trying to not do so for more than hour. Its like there is a bunch of keys to managing all of this and standing/moving around is a small one that is very useful. So now I am off again.

      • I have my carb cravings at night. I do fine all day, but after dinner, I crave sweets. I then eat too many raisins and pecans. Trying to figure out how to stop them.

      • O.k., here goes :-) ..though of course menopause is it’s own twist and so is ethnic/genetic background.
        Was there more than one ‘last time’ ? because that has it’s own set of metabolic disregulation that needs to be addressed.
        In April, I do 24hrs, dinner to dinner. That’s what I was doing during the later part of the one-year weight loss too.
        -For 3 days a week (not quite ADF, but close and easier to manage with work/social schedules).
        -Very strict, no cheating during the day, not even ‘a little bit’ – small snacks made it harder to last and hungrier when it’s time to eat. Interestingly, when strictly fasting I am hungriest about 2-3 hrs before dinner, then hardly at all by dinner – so 24 hrs seemed best for hunger cycling and perfect time to eat.
        -I love coffee and drink it all day long on fast days, with a spoon of full cream to damp stomach acid, decaf by afternoon. Finding something I liked that’s no-carb&lo-cal, to drink on those days really helped a lot.
        -On fast nights, dinner is just my regular dinner, so I’m eating approximately half my usual calories those days. Fish, or meat/fowl, veggies of some sort, occasionally potatoes (I never met a potato I didn’t like !), tangerines in the winter, berries and melons the rest of the time as staples, but I vary it for taste and according to what’s available. I make sure to get real yogurt (I mean Greek yogurt of course :-) at least 3 days a week, so if dinner didn’t fully satisfy on a fast day, I’ll have the yogurt on that day, before bed. Very filling.
        – Standing up is terrific! You find you do a sort of weight shift from leg to leg completely unconsciously and so you’re actually actuating slow twitch muscles the whole time. Great toning for the legs and butt, btw ;-). I prop my computer up on a bench counter in the lab or at home on the kitchen counter on the bread-box and in the office I just use text books on top of my desk (set-up doesn’t take space that way and is mobile).
        And I walk around a lot, though less on exercise days, listening to body’s cues on over-tiring.

      • Threading woes again, above was reply to Kate.

      • Threading only goes 6 levels, then everything stacks up in the order posted under the deepest nested comment.

        That’s why it’s helpful to always reference who and what you’re replying to on some way.

      • Pauline, o.k. will try to arrange email.
        Yes on Seth’s observation, definitely. See my comment above too about standing. I think it’s slow, lo-grade exercise, which may be an evolutionary adaptation.
        .
        -Fasting is impossible for me if I’ve shifted even briefly to a ‘regular’ (ie. excess) carb diet, which rarely happens any more, but occasionally, you know? there’s the birthday cake and the christmas party and thanksgiving (a cruel, cruel seasonal timing, that). So I down-shift again the sugars/processed carbs and within a few days can fast again happily.
        At the start of my 25lbs-weight loss I first got off the sugar roller-coaster on a lo-carb paleo style diet, , then decreased calories for weight loss, by that point on a more archevore-type diet (still no grains nor processed foods, but natural carbs).
        .
        However, lo-calorie is something I can only do for so long before adapting, so then I eased into Fasting (which has the side-effect of cycling calories, so no hormonal down-regulation of metabolism, or so it seems up to now 2 years later).
        *Getting off the glucose roller coaster first is I think key to being able to fast successfully.*
        Easing:
        -First no breakfast, only coffee with a spoon of cream (for me, some prefer tea or flavored waters).
        Then when comfortable with that, I did no lunch either -that’s where cheating started in the late afternoon, until I realized the sabotage I was doing, so cut that out by drinking more or just scheduling very active things then (great, and I do mean great, time to exercise -while you are exercising, the hunger signal is turned off… and there are measured fitness benefits). Got it to 24 hrs, dinner-to-dinner that way.
        Later I didn’t need the exercise ‘cheat’ to get me there anymore, my body just responds and rather ecstatically each time – it actually feels good all over, especially with the energy boost in the afternoon, so if I have a long schedule with both classes and lab for example, that day I fast for sure and may end up eating late at 9pm -by which point I’m on the up-part of the hunger cycle again but it doesn’t matter, I can afford to overeat then because I’m not trying to lose weight anymore.
        For glucose/insulin response, wheat is terrible for me, as it is for some more than others. It’s interesting that instinctively I used to avoid breads/muffins/cereals/pasta as a child and teenager (to my parents’ despair -when I was in highschool, mom took to cooking green beans and ‘canadian bacon’ or smoked pork chops for breakfast on my riding or cycling training days because of it),
        but acculturation creeped in later, and a lot of the processed foods have wheat snuck into them.
        Without wheat, the IBS I had developed over the years went away too, at least I think that’s a major cause, but could be of course all the junk in processed food too. I am not going to do a controlled experiment on that one!

      • Oh sure Richard, I know that, it’s a rookie mistake but I make it often, hence “my threading woes” – some others do too and we’ve teased each other about it. The ‘my’ was just missing in this last correction.
        You have the best organized comment section I’ve seen, it even catches ‘duplicates’ when I accidentally hit submit twice and I love how I can sign-up or cancel notifications for specific posts. Thank you for making it easy on the clumsy :-)

      • Pauline says:

        Thanks for laying it all so well like that. How long did it take you to move from just a morning fast to a full day was that a slow process. 3 Days a week – wow! Very interesting.

      • Pauline, had to check old spreadsheet: Not too bad, only 2weeks to get comfortable without breakfast.
        Longer to get Consistently to dinner because of those early cheats I mentioned :
        3 weeks of success/fail/success/fail while cheating, but after cutting cheats it took only about 2 weeks again to feel comfortable all the way to dinner.

      • Like Anna K. and others, I always enjoyed IFing – felt more natural to me (as I prefer eating a large meal), and I never underate as a result. Just never saw any benefit from it that many others saw, like fat loss etc.

      • Nor shuold you expect fat loss when not undereating. IF can be used for caloric deficit for fat loss, or big high and mental boost by crowing a week of food into 5-6 days.

  50. So, we are at the Helen Reddy phase of comments.. hmmmmm.
    I love IF. I feel better and look better.
    I am post meno. And I lift heavy things, walk a lot, run sometimes , bike and generally get shit done.
    Works for me and that my friends is N=1. Good enough for Richard N, good enough for moi.
    :-)

  51. Well just reflecting i fasted in hs got serious acne & had to go on Accutane. To this day no one really understands why I got cystic acne- frankly, no one cares. No one has ever cared and no one ever will. I started doing IF again last year after getting a refreshers from one male source after another. Healthy women think it’s sick & fasting outside the paleo world pretty much pro ana. Have started exploring Ray Peat’s work and thyroid; he says a heartbeat well over 80 is healthy but mine is more like 72. I lost fat yes from doing IF there is no doubt so it would be hard to curtail. Since I started using coconut oil I’ve noticed I can’t go beyond 15-16 hours even if I ate like 2,000 calories the day before- hello, that has to be because my metabolism is faster. I could go 19-36 hours before I started treating my thryoid, my metabolism was apparently that slow.This is I think is the missing key and what most people in paleo land don’t understand.

    • Hi clc,
      Cystic acne is usually associated with hormone imbalances. I might guess that a) losing weight lowered your estrogen levels, which allowed testosterone to run unchecked (androgens being the drivers of hormonal acne, or b) low levels of hormones coupled with activation of your adrenal system caused DHEA (an androgen produced by the adrenal glands) levels to rise, or c), which seems probable because of your later weak thyroid issues, the fasting induced hypothyroidism, which is associated with skin conditions, and which can also lead to a decrease in the hormones important for skin care and a relative increase in androgen hormones, or finally perhaps d) in which toxins were released from your fat stores if you burned them. Or something else. :) In all cases, sex hormone levels are significantly linked to digestive hormones, so fluctuations in one almost always cause fluctuations in the other, which can lead to skin conditions for women who have sensitive skin.

  52. Great read, and great points! I ran into all of the issues you mentioned above (bad reactions to fasting, low-carb diet, fertility issues with weight loss, etc.) through self-experimentation and am thrilled to have my own anecdotal findings backed up. More women need to hear this, thank you! :)

  53. Interesting article. Definitely food for thought. I love the paleo community for its generally scientific bent and emphasis on strength–although I stay the heck away from any sort of “fitspiration” stuff, so I find that I’m not feeling like a paleo woman needs to conform to Western ideals. From the girls I follow, I get that paleo women are resilient, strong, and generally bad-ass, with lean-ness being more of a secondary trait.

    Based on the comments above, it seems like the issue has sort of turned into defining an ideal BF% for women. This is silly.

    I think by substituting BF% for BMI as an indicator of health (or attractiveness–because how many people associate a BMI of 30 with attractiveness right off the bat?) we’re winding up with a similar problem: a single value CANNOT adequately reflect the state of a person’s health. I exercise more, sleep more, and eat much better than a friend of mine who’s probably close to 20%, but despite this I’m stuck around 25% (eww, land whale, right?). I think if my friend exercised/slept/ate the way I do, she might drop below 20% relatively easily without trouble–for me to drop below 20%, it would be seriously stressful for my body. In the big picture, I’m sure I’m healthier than her, but if you just compare our body fat levels, she looks better.

    I think some people are naturally (genetically?) predisposed to being thinner, which could mean a smaller bone structure or less fat, or both, while others can do everything “right”, but will never “compete” with the smaller individuals. This isn’t an excuse for me to give up on eating right and exercising because “I can’t compete”, but it’s a factor to consider.

    Remember what they used to say: “It’s what’s on the inside that counts!”

    • That’s a beautiful comment, Sara. I also have never heard the term “fitspiration” before, but I have a feeling it’s going to become a regular in my vocabulary.

      And totally! Totally. I hope you understand that I don’t advocate any body fat percentage other than one that’s got a healthy body and healthy mind running underneath. I’ve been writing another post going up on a different blog– Whole 9’s–about the notion of an idea BF% or BMI. Crazy. There’s nothing in the literature that says a body that looks like a model or a lean crossfitter is healthier than one that doesn’t. Only one that, like you said, has the stuff on the inside that counts.

  54. more than BF%, amennorhea is triggered by nutrient deficiency and longtime energydeficiency hand-in-hand that provoke certain hormonal changes in the body and also bring on a drop in BF% – which is a result not a cause.
    another thought – an evolutionary one:
    the nr 1 goal of any lifeform is to reproduce and evolution really does not care about preserving the entity much after the reproductive age is past. in human women the reproductive age is defined by the ability to menstruate. in “paleo” times amennorhea would naturally occur most winterseasons when food (nutrients,energy) were scarse and it was an evolutionary protection that ensured a developing fetus that necessary energy would be available for its development. while ammennorhegic (is that a word?) a womans body used its energy for more “important” things. well keeping itself alive for one, but also organ repair and autophagy… thus having some “antiageing” properties in common with the results of IF and CR… So you could theorise that periodic amennhorea would be actually very “paleo” and antiageing aswell :)

  55. Ma Flintstone says:

    That was one spectacular rant.
    A+, 100%.

  56. Ladydoc says:

    Wow. Lots of discussion on this topic around Stefani’s politics (or what people PERCEIVE her politics to be) and precious little discussion about the real topic at hand – women’s health. Let’s bring this back to a real discussion that’s not about proving your politics/worldview are superior to everyone else’s and doesn’t politicize women’s bodies. As a physician who specializes in women’s health and has recently become a convert to this idea of a modified Paleo/primal diet for women, let me say a few things that are real and true.
    1) it is true that Women of reproductive age are absent from research studies. This is due to a variety of factors (which many of you have debated ad nauseum). Irrespective of those factors, it means that many drug therapies, etc are in essence, “field tested” on women. Healthcare professionals who work with women are acutely aware of this and most are hyper vigilant when suggesting a course of action that has not even anecdotally been tried on women’s bodies.
    2) which brings me to the topic of body fat and menstruation. I find it very interesting that the majority of advocates in this discussion for extremely low body fat in women are men. Your observed evidence of your girlfriend or wife’s cycle qualifies you not one iota on this topic. I have literally treated thousands of women and the one thing I do know is that while individual cycles vary widely, on a population level all cycles behave similarly. What does that mean? It means this: body fat is essential to the reproductive health of women. And a woman who has optimal reproductive health lives longer and healthier after her cycle ends. Many of you have confused the ability to get pregnant with reproductive health, as evidenced by comments that “women in countries with famines have no problems having babies”. At a macro population level, all women of reproductive age can have babies, even in stressful situations like famine. Infertility in women is quite uncommon – no matter how many people you “know” or hear about who can’t conceive. A healthy reproductive woman doesn’t just have a “regular” cycle – that is only a visual representation of her health. She also has other optimal hormonal and metabolic processes that are greatly dependent on maintaining her overall health. Her mood, blood pressures, body inflammation, heart health, insulin sensitivity, etc are all related to her health during her reproductive years – even long after she has stopped menstruating. One of the easiest diagnostic tools I use for women is body odor. A healthy woman of almost any age should have a relatively mild body odor, ostensibly because her hormones are regulated in an appropriate manner. If she has a strong body odor, something is off. And my observation is that women who carry some “female fat” into menopause fare better through the process both physically and mentally.
    3) Finally, let’s talk about amenorrhea. It is true that it is evolutionarily desirable for women to skip periods. However, those missed periods should come in the form of pregnancy, not amenorrhea. Pregnancy is the single most stressful thing that can happen to a woman’s body – lots of immediate and long lasting metabolic changes occur. But women were BUILT for this! We were not built for amenorrhea. In fact, in my opinion, amenorrhea in a woman is so aberrant as to be an emergent condition. Something is seriously wrong with you if your period stops for any reason other than pregnancy or menopause.
    That’s my two cents for the day. Stefani’s article is good and thought-provoking, people. Don’t let your politics ruin what is a legitimate line of inquiry in this community.

  57. Pauline says:

    I am adding my thoughts to these comments: by monitoring my calorie intake through using an app called ‘My Fitness Pal’ I have been able to track my calories as well as carbs/fat/protein ratios. It also allows you to input exercise and you are able to set up your short and long term goals. It has a facility to scan in barcodes on foods so that you can track the nutrients/calories very easily. I am 3 kg (about 6.6 pounds) down since starting about 6 weeks ago and I do have ‘cheats’ which you can clearly monitor through the app on your phone. I have done a few mornings of Intermittent Fasting but want to build that in on a more regular basis. I have increased my safe starches and reduced some of the fats in my diet although protein has remained about the same. This seems to be the most significant part of the weight loss together with regular daily journal keeping and tracking of calories, something which is a very new part of my paleo/moderate carb lifestyle.

    • I am now using the same app. It has become a very valuable tool.

    • Pauline says:

      Hi Kate, my daughter introduced me to it and both my partner and I have found it very useful for logging things you would not normally be able to monitor as easily and your phone is always nearby or in your bag/pocket. Good luck with your goals, I know it is hard work and requires ongoingcommitment and refining. The secret is not to lose heart when it is slow. I am planning a fast for tomorrow morning. Its been a past week of celebrations so time to get back on track.

  58. Pauline says:

    Oh I have kept all forms of grains out of my diet as much as I can.

  59. Pauline says:

    A big thanks to Marie whose clearly explained format above for losing the 25 pounds she had gained in a year and then lost in a year, inspired me to find out how to tweek my own diet/lifestyle in a similar way.

    • marie says:

      :) I’m glad, long soliloquies make me nervous, but if it helped then well worth it. I agree that grains are a key, and my daughter uses that counting app now, I think it’s a great to help to teach what calories there really are in our most usual foods and also, especially here in the states , to recalibrate her ‘eye’ to normal portions (everything is 3x, and that’s the ‘regular size” !).

    • marie says:

      PS > fasting yesterday and today (my personal max is two days in a row, years ago measured my metabolism dropping towards end of second day and can actually feel the effect, suddenly sluggish and tired, like ‘hitting a wall’).
      Most advocates recommend not more than 3 days (72hrs) to be on the safe side, based on studies, but I think that may be based on men and young women (students -most common research guinea pigs). Personal comfort is actually a good indicator, once you’re used to fasting, in my experience.

  60. Pauline says:

    Spent today reading some thoughts on Intermittent Fasting from Michael on his website, have a look its been very interesting. Plenty of links and stuff to think about that makes a lot of sense:

    http://criticalmas.com/best-of/intermittent-fasting/

  61. michelle says:

    I know I’m like a month late to the party here but I have a question for Stephani, do you even lift?

    If you want to eat like a man then you’re going to have to train like a man. I’ve been lifting heavy (actually heavy, as in, I can squat and deadlift more than my bodyweight) weights for the past year. About 6 months into I realized I actually need to eat carbs to gain muscle. About 2 months ago I decided to try to get some bodyfat off via IF (leangains style) and it’s working wonderfully. I know this is anecdotal and 2 months is not a terribly long time, but it’s working, even though I constantly accidentally go over my calorie goals. Whoops. Also wanted to point out I’m at a normal BMI, so not actually overweight. This is how you get hot, lose the fat, gain muscle, the weight on your scale is going to stay relatively the same (although I have lost 4 lbs so far).

    I have seen 1 comment in this entire thread mentioning lifting and IF is working for her as well. There is definitely something better/different going on when you’re strength training vs cardio. And man, cardio is BORING.

  62. andre harris says:

    I think you have made a number of errors of analysis here. for a start BMI analysis is done separately for men and women and research suggests that longevity for women peaks at around a BMI of 20. Secondly you exrapolate the effects that fasting had smaller effects on women’s health to mean that women were less suited to fasting than men are, when it could be argued that the reverse is the case. In fact in several historical instances of starvation ALL the men died and ALL the children died and only women were left.

  63. I started off nodding and agreeing with most of this until I got here…

    “Standards of attractiveness are conditioned just as strongly, if not more strongly, by social standards rather than by base physiological drives. This is evidenced by simple tropes: it is now attractive to be tan rather than pale, for example, since upper classes have more leisure time to spend outside. And it is now more attractive to be thin rather than plump, since only upper classes have access to gym memberships and CSAs, etc.”

    Not buying this tropes as ‘evidence’ gambit, and I think this leads much of the subsequent thinking astray. Counter-point: There is evidence that pigmentation from suntanned skin is more attractive across cultures. There is also evidence that skinny (e.g. fashion) female models are less attractive than [relatively] plump women found in Playboy and porn (Playboy models’ average BMI: 18.57).

    “Typically, menstruation drops off by around 18 percent, though many women stop menstruating at 20 or even 22 or 23 percent body fat”

    Typically?

    * “Studies using appropriate body composition measures do not support the critical fat theory” – Sports Medicine

    * The American College of Sports Medicine estimates the body fat percentage at which women suffer adverse effects is 8-12%.

    * “The present hypotheses emphasise the importance of caloric deficiency and limited energy availability, although they still fail to identify the actual mechanism that causes ERMI (exercise-related menstrual irregularities).” – Sports Medicine

    The research on the connection between body fat, exercise, and menstruation is confounded by myriad variables, and it doesn’t seem true that a particular range of body fat percentages holds the most likely answer.

    “Now is the time for us to refuse to be caged, and to say fuck it to external pressures, and to exalt in the glory of real, natural, nourished womanhood.

    The truth of evolution and a paleolithic perspective encourages this notion. When we use evolutionary science rather than norms to guide our lifestyles and our choices, it helps us break free of social norms. It helps us see what true health looks like, and it helps us embrace our natural bodies.

    Indeed. And to achieve a true evolutionary/paleolithic perspective, we can’t settle for neck-down Darwinism that ignores how evolution shaped our minds, feelings, and desires. To my mind, it’s just as harmful to idealize excessively high body fat percentages as it is to advertise excessively low body fat percentages. In this case, as in many others, I think our evolved raw physical attraction gives us a better heuristic shortcut to the answer than the Science™ of body fat percentages.

  64. I really do not understand the whole patriarchy argument. I think health and the benefits of fasting can be evaluated for their health merits alone and only one of those is weight loss and, hence, outside beauty. there are extreme over-generalizations here stating that women DO or DON’T benefit from fasting. I think the term may or may not would be more accurate. in “quoting” research done on the subject there is a serious lack of unbiased information. a simple google scholar search (and by simple i mean Google is not a synonym for research so if you find something there there will be a lot more on specialized websites and databases) on the effects of fasting in women would suffice to see that there is little or no consensus in the scientific community for both male AND female on this issue except on the fact that more research in needed, and there is little research on the matter of women alone, but there is enough to make a semi-informed decision; moreover, we can find arguments to support and refute most of what has been stated here about fasting and women fertility, body weight, fat%, fasting benefits etc without needing to go into the rats. so I please ask for some serious research on the matter from those that have a large following and who can influence the decisions people make. I respect passion and advocating for female and male natural beauty but if someone is in the position of influencing others it is imperative that they provide accurate and unbiased information and this is not a good example of that practice.

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  1. [...] women IF? For those of you who don't follow Richard Nikoley, here's a very good blog entry. No One's Power but Our Own: Paleo Sexist Woes, and an Invitation to Rise Up and Roar | Free… You lousy kids! Get off my savannah! Reply With Quote « Previous [...]

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