I wrote this piece for my friends over at lernintri.com about my experiences with dieting and trying to get fit. It is posted below, but I encourage you to check out their website for some healthy inspiration, nutrition tips, and even lifestyle coaching services!
Fit or Fad?
I love food. I won’t deny it. In my family growing up, we were encouraged to make food an adventurous and pleasurable experience, and to try everything twice (once for introduction and again for consistency…if you didn’t like it the first time, maybe it wasn’t prepared correctly…or maybe your taste buds have changed over time). I cook for a living, and Anthony Bourdain is my hero. I have more than a few gadgets in my kitchen, including some I’ve used maybe once or not at all (grilled cheese press, anyone?). I have long believed that the key ingredients to make any dish mind-blowing are butter, bacon, cheese, or wine (or all of the above).
Needless to say, my love affair with food means that I’ve struggled with my weight. Like most overweight people, when I decided it would be in my best interest to get slimmer, I wanted a fast fix to lose those pounds…trying supplement after supplement, fad diets galore, hardcore cleanses and fasting, you name it…pretty much everything except for good old-fashioned exercise (because who wants to do that?). Some of the plans even worked…such as when I attempted that well-known, protein-rich, low-carb disaster of a diet that allowed me all the butter, bacon, and cheese I wanted, but told me to shy away from nuts, most fruits, and any grains or starches whatsoever. I became this raging ball of greasy, meat-fueled, carb-hungry tension, and like a shark smells a drop of blood in the water from great distances, I could smell a starch from a mile away, honing in on the forbidden food with intense desire, eyes darting and mouth salivating while—yeah, it was bad. Oh, and the cleanse where you drink some magical brew of ice water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper…I probably dropped about 12 pounds in five days on that one. However, I felt as energetic and strong as a 92-year-old on an episode of Survivor.
The one thing all these fads to which I entrusted my waistline had in common? Being miserable, losing weight fast but gaining it all back once I started eating normal food, and the overall feeling that I was ultimately cheating myself. I knew that simply eating right, cutting my portions, and getting off my butt and moving on a regular basis would be the best long-term plan…but again, I wanted a quick fix. I just didn’t expect all those quick fixes to be as temporary as they were. I guess if it seems too good to be true, it often is. I learned that the hard way, because I’m stubborn and lazy at times and that’s how I roll…until last year.
I finally came to my senses. I joined a gym offering classes that I found interesting and challenging. No hamster on a treadmill-wheel for me…I have attention deficit disorder when it comes to working out. If it’s too repetitive or boring, I won’t do it, simple as that. I got a juicer and incorporated fresh fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies to my diet. I ate smaller portions. I made myself healthy snacks and even meals from recipes that I had researched online to bring to work in case the kitchen’s menu that day wasn’t very conducive to my goals. I ate less preservatives, processed foods, refined sugars, dairy, and white starches (potatoes, white bread, pasta, etc.). I let myself cheat once in a while (dark chocolate here or there, maybe a small soft serve cone at the local ice cream shop or a small popcorn at the movie theater). I kept a record of my eating habits so that I could see on paper what I was putting in (food) and what I was putting out (exercise). It worked. It is still working. That is not to say that sometimes I don’t slide off track. I’m only human, after all. When I see that I’m backsliding, I just pick myself up and start over again.
I challenge you to try it a few days, maybe a week. Get outside and take a walk each day or find a physical hobby you enjoy (like jogging, swimming, yoga, or playing Frisbee), try grocery shopping only in the outside perimeter of the supermarket (where all the fresh stuff is), or try to cut out processed foods altogether for a little while (one good rule of thumb is if you can’t pronounce the ingredient or tell where that ingredient came from, you might not want to eat it). Maybe cut your portions by a third or in half. Or, do some research on clean eating, healthy recipes, and fitness and take it from there. At the end of the trial period, ask yourself if you feel better. Ask yourself if you are happier. Ask yourself if you could consider making a lifestyle change for good, and act on it.
Once you make the choice to get healthier, SHARE YOUR SUCCESSES! Sometimes broadcasting your efforts on social media or on a blog can provide others with inspiration and also elicit some positive, encouraging comments and tips from others. Journal it. Maybe start the healthy journey with a friend, coworker, or loved one so you can motivate each other. Most importantly, love yourself and the choices you have made to be happy and healthy. Don’t get discouraged if you falter. Stand up, dust off, and start again.
There is no quick fix. There are no shortcuts in life. Your lifestyle determines your living conditions. I’ve learned that what you put into your body and what you put out (in the form of sweat, tears, love or hate) are directly connected to how you feel and how you view life. You happen to life, life doesn’t happen to you.
I may love food, but food will never love me back. My body does, however, seems to respond well to nutrient-dense foods and not-so-well to crap foods. The feeling I used to get from just lying on the couch and watching TV can never compare to the endorphin rush and sense of accomplishment I get after a good strength-training workout or bike ride. When all else fails, and I start to falter, I take a deep breath and remind myself: I am what I eat, I am what I choose to be…and nothing tastes as good as healthy feels. Even if it doesn’t have bacon or cheese in it.