Alright, so here’s the deal: you need to…er…go…more. First, let’s just be frank and get it out there: I’m writing a blog post about poop. More accurately, about pooping. The more I tiptoe around it, the worse I’m making the problem. We’re all friends here, right? But I will make a deal with you: in order to make this comfortable for everyone, I am going to avoid horrible puns and poo-related jokes. You are now safe to read on. Note: There are no pictures because…well…what would be an appropriate image for this topic?
I recently wrote a Facebook status about a phenomenon that I have experienced with my female clients: our fitness—or at least, our perception of it—is often profoundly affected by our pooping regimen. Or lack thereof. It happens often that, for no reason at all, we are bloated and heavy-feeling. Our weight loss is on hold. We are doing everything right, and yet we can’t figure out what the heck is so…off.
For competitors, this can be a nightmare! We are looking for steady progress on a weekly basis. While we don’t judge our progress solely by the bathroom scale, we do rely on a combination of how we look and what we weigh. So imagine our mortification when, after five days, we are WORSE when we are supposed to be better! After a while we learn our bodies well enough to know, for example, that Tuesday is not a good day—we’ll poop by Friday and then Saturday everything will be back to glorious perfection. Until the following Tuesday…sigh.
But even for those who are not competing, the mental frustration can be devastating. Again, you’re doing everything right—you’ve been seeing some great progress, but then for no reason at all you’ve had five days of steadily getting worse. Maybe the difference is on the scale and maybe it’s not; maybe your pants are a little tighter when they should be looser. Maybe you just feel…yucky and you can’t quite put your finger on it.
Don’t immediately assume that you’re doing something wrong! It is common for me, at this point, to ask a client very bluntly: “when was the last time you pooped?” (Yes, my friends, your trainer will know more about your poop than your immediate family members).
And then, just when you can’t take it anymore, you have what I called in my Facebook status a “hallelujah moment” when all of your progress comes together at once. You’ve pooped! You feel flatter, lighter, healthier, and…just plain better. This moment feels like it deserves some kind of applause and recognition, but you can’t tell anyone. (Unless you’re my client, and then you’ll tell me and I’ll be excited too. I love my job). Maybe you pooped once or twice this week already but you know it wasn’t…well, you weren’t finished. I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about the one that you’ve waited for at least a week for. The big one.
How can we have more of those?! Is this what men do every morning? Is this why they have so much pride in their poo? Ah-ha! This must be why they show each other and talk so openly about it! They’re onto something. Why the hell can’t we do that? As you may know, my academic background is in gender and body theory—how do we think of the woman’s body? How do we use our bodies, move our bodies, and constrain our bodies? How have we come to be the way we are? What does it mean to “throw like a girl,” and why do we do that? These kinds of questions have helped me re-learn how to use my body for things like pullups, squats, and other movements that I struggled with as a result of social pressures to sit, act, and present myself “like a lady.” And they have helped me learn to poop.
What does theory have to do with poo? (Go ahead, make a joke). Maybe the answer is less about food and more about attitude. Or at the very least, a combination of both. When was the last time you made pooping a priority? I swear sometimes my partner only goes to the bathroom every morning to read a magazine. Can he really be pooping all of that time? Whether he is or isn’t, he’s got a good idea—he reserves time every morning just for it. Nothing—I do mean nothing—comes in the way of his “morning routine.” Maybe we could all benefit from this undying commitment to the toilet.
If you’re still not convinced that pooping is a learned behavior, then you’re wondering what the heck you can do about it. As for the science of the body and how to establish regularity, I think it’s going to depend on the cause of your problem. While I believe that, to some extent, the best explanation for why these issues seem to primarily affect women probably has to do with the mental blockage I have discussed, from a physical standpoint I refuse to believe that every body is the same.
There are so many websites that offer tips. So much contradictory information—one site tells you what not to eat, and the next tells you to eat it. Everyone has a different answer, and if you’re like me, you’ve tried them all. I hate to tell you that I don’t have The Answer. But I have compiled a few posts that have informed me from multiple perspectives. Drawing from the links below, here is a rough synopsis of common causes:
- Not enough fiber
- Not enough water
- A lack of time
- Gluten allergy
- Grain intolerance
- Not enough grains (see the contradiction?!
- Too many legumes
- Too much red meat
- Dairy allergy/intolerance
- Too many processed foods
- Too much caffeine (although coffee is my perfect go-inducer)
Is your head spinning? Try these five steps first:
- Drink more water –buy a gallon jug, fill it, and aspire to finish at least half of it by the end of the day
- Reduce or eliminate processed foods
- Make time every morning to poop; if you don’t have to go, just sit there for ten minutes
- Add more green vegetables to your diet (try my green smoothie below)
- Add a probiotic to your diet
From here, it’s a process of elimination (joke not intended) and experimentation. But don’t try eliminating more than one thing at once, or you’ll never know which one worked!
Today’s Green Smoothie Recipe:
1 cucumber, peeled
2 cups spinach
1/2 cup almond milk
5 ice cubes
Blend together, drink while cold. Just trust me on this one. 🙂
For an overview:
Legit, helpful tips:
From the Gluten/Grain People: