As a matured 40 something, I have seen some pretty crazy fitness/diet fads over the years. People have been obsessed with getting the “PERFECT” body for decades. I remember an magazine article I read in my pre-teens – a Q&A interview with a super model; she was asked what she did to stay so thin. Her response: “I drink black coffee and smoked cigarettes to keep me from eating”… Sounds reasonable!
“ON A DIET” was a household term growing up. My mom was a serial dieter, especially after my parents divorced. Her go-to diets included: the cabbage soup diet, the grapefruit diet, the cottage cheese diet, weight watchers, Jenny Craig, and the liquid diet. She was also a regular fixture at the local rec centers that offered AEROBICS – Spandex and all. Throughout the years I watched her YO-YO countless times, so it’s not surprising I ended up on a similar path.
My first real attempt at “DIETING” was at the age of 14. It was shortly after watching THE CARPENTERS “The Karen Carpenter Story” 1989. If you’re old enough, you probably already know where this is going. Karen Carpenter was a singer who struggled, and eventually died, from anorexia-nervosa. As an impressionable 14 year old chubby girl, the movie inspired me. YEP – INSPIRED. I wanted to be thin and beautiful – just like Karen. However, I was only going to starve myself until I lost weight, then I would eat again.
Over the two decades that followed, I struggled with eating disorders. By the time I was 30, I was depressed, starved, and going through a divorce. I basically hit ROCK BOTTOM, and I was desperate for change. I tried counselling, but that was unsuccessful. Eventually, I took matters into my own hands and signed up to become a fitness leader.
My unhealthy relationship with food and exercise, ultimately, landed me in the Fitness Industry. I was on a quest to LEARN how to be healthy and fit, and I was sure this was the way to do it. In the beginning, it helped. I incorporated different modes of exercise and “mostly” healthy eating into my life. I maintained a decent weight, BUT I wasn’t thin. Let me tell you something about the fitness industry – it’s competitive and ruthless. FITNESS is a business and if you want to be successful, you need to LOOK the part. Soon my new found healthy lifestyle took a turn – insert “clean eating” here.
Clean eating, gluten free, dairy free, carb free, etc etc etc…. the FAD diets of the 21st century (some better than others). Do these diets work? Yes and No – just like their predecessors, you can, and likely will, lose weight by going on “A DIET” Most diets restrict and eliminate caloric intake in one shape or another, which will lead to weight loss. However, most people can’t “restrict” long-term, and the cycle of Yo-yoing continues.
I can proudly say that I am now a recovering Yo-Yoer, and it wasn’t a specific diet that got me there. I took a long hard look at what I was doing, and then did the opposite.
1. I stopped dieting! To get myself to a healthy and manageable weight, I changed my eating patterns. I realized that even though I was “eating clean”, I was eating too often. So, I adopted intermittent fasting to reduce the amount I ate – and allowed myself to eat all types of food. I’m mindful to limit junk food, however. Additionally, I reduced (not eliminated) my alcohol consumption, I make sure to get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, and I spend as much time as possible in nature – for stress reduction.
2. I stopped comparing myself to other people, and started appreciating my body for what it was capable of. At 46, I can still trail run, mountain bike, do HIIT workouts, backcountry hike for days with a 30lb pack, and most importantly, I can DANCE in my living room for hours on end. I eat and exercise because it feels good and gives me energy. I’m strong and healthy, so a little extra around the hips is fine with me.
3. I remembered what mattered. I am here on earth for a short time, and I want to make the best of the time I have. Feeling good, being healthy, and enjoying life mean more to me than a six pack or thigh gap – any day!