On Friday, flipping through Facebook, I noticed a posting from Rocco DiSpirito about a new book he’d written promoting an 850 calorie a day diet. I became enraged. I loathe celebreties, or social media figures who promote unhealthy ways to lose weight. With so many people trying to kick off goals of losing weight, it feels like you can’t look at any kind of media without being bombarded with ads, stories, fake promises of quick & easy weight loss. If there’s one thing that gets me fired up, it’s feeding off of those with low self-esteem who are trying to make changes in their lives.
This will probably open up a firestorm of hate, I wholeheartedly disagree with using any kind of shake or bar to replace meals as a method of weight loss. Nothing can replace real food for a sustainable amount of time, and I firmly believe that if you don’t learn to eat healthy, real food, you will never take control of your nutrition, fueling your body, or your weight. I know this from about 25 years of dieting experience.
My Food Story
I’ve never been skinny. I have been curvy for as long as I can remember, and remember being on my first diet at age 7 or 8. I’ve hated the thighs I inherited from both sides of my family since before I stopped growing. I’ve gained and lost probably hundreds of pounds over the years (not all at once, but over time, it’s definitely several hundred). Through all of this, I only really remember thinking about (or being told about) being and eating healthy a handful of times.
Growing up, my family didn’t eat much healthy food. We always had vegetables, and I was always forced to eat them, but they could accompany anything from steak and baked potato, to a family recipe my children will never experience, Tomato, Macaroni, and Bacon (it’s as disgusting as it sounds). The family Fry Daddy got good use, and it wasn’t a weekend without pancakes or French toast with either sausage or bacon. This took a toll on my health from an early age; by age 7 or 8, I had high cholesterol and we made some diet changes, but it was only moderately better.
Always a chubby kid. And always with the ridiculous hair.
In junior high and high school, my dieting was about fitting in a smaller size, preparing for cheering season, or to try to look like the girls who had long, slender legs. Somehow the concept of being 5’2″ was something I could offset if I was only a little bit skinnier. I remember my 15th birthday party was a held at a local college rec center, and amazing my friends with my 6 pack abs, and yet longing to be able to have smaller thighs. I did the whole low-fat diet thing, I did Slim-Fast (although, admittedly I always mixed it with frozen yogurt because I thought it was disgusting), I remember trying fasting, but I was pretty active, so it lasted like a day.
Age 15. Underneath that ridiculous dress is a six-pack. I was doing 500 sit-ups a day.
As I got older, I continued to put on a few pounds here, and a few pounds there, and before I knew it, I was really unhealthy. I look back at pictures of that girl, and I want to hug her and tell how amazing she will be someday.
Me at my college graduation. Looking back, I cannot believe I let myself get to this point.
I honestly don’t remember what made me realize it, or decide to change, but I read The South Beach Diet, and decided it was going help me undo what I had been doing to my body for years. It was the first time I really thought about what I was eating, not just the quantity of it. But even with that, once I lost more than 30 pounds, I shifted away from the whole food concept (which I now realize was a big piece of that plan for at least the first phase).
It has really only been in the last year or two when instead of thinking about calories solely, I have a mentality of looking to fuel my body with delicious healthy food rather than whatever kept me under my calorie goal for the day. And even more importantly, how important it is to actually eat what your body needs. 8 years ago, I lived for months at a time eating 800-900 calories worth of food (but probably drinking another 800-900 several times a week) while working out fairly heavily and kept getting frustrated at plateauing. I now know that I was killing my metabolism and my body hated me.
Me at probably my lowest weight since I was 15. I was eating less than 1000 calories & working out over an hour a day. Terrible idea. It didn’t last long.
Today, while I still try to keep a calorie goal, it’s a guideline, and depending on my workout that day or the next day, I adjust it. I’m focused on eating things that my body needs, and allowing for the occasional treat, but staying as focused as I can on making sure I can perform each time I lace up to go for a run or hit the gym. I can tell when I’ve eaten too many carbs, not enough iron, and can even tell when I’m missing fat now. Does it mean I’m in the best shape of my life, no. Does it mean I don’t allow myself to enjoy a dinner out every once in to while, no. But it does mean I know when I’m making trade offs, and that I can’t expect the scale to give me a happy number if I’ve been less on track with clean eating than normal.
Learning to eat healthy and workout hasn’t been an easy road, but it’s finally settled in, and with that came acceptance. My thighs and hips will never be slender, but they can be powerful. I may never weigh what I did when I was 15, but I’m a lot happier. I may never qualify for Boston, but I still love running, and racing. These things don’t matter, what matters is that I’m healthy, I’m happy, and I love who I am today.
I am not a doctor, a registered dietitian, personal trainer, chef, nurse, or any type of clinician who can provide the science behind what you should eat, how you should be working out, or provide medical advice. This is my story. My personal experience, and that is all. During my life, I’ve tried Slim Fast, Weight Watchers, Green Tea pills, South Beach, low fat/high carb, low carb/high fat, and due to TMJ, lived for 6 weeks on smoothies, over cooked pasta, and soup, and still lost 15 pounds in 10 days. Every person is different and your experience with an eating plan, a diet, or workout regimen will be different based on your body’s needs. However, eating real, whole food, in my opinion, is always a better option than anything in a can, bottle, or box.
My delicious dinner last night
What strange family meals did you have growing up that you’d never eat today?
How do you focus on being healthy?
What healthy habits do you have now, that you didn’t have when you were younger?