I was in my early 20s and pretty much eating complete crap. Thanks to my amazing metabolism a diet of burgers, fries, subs, and frozen dinners kept me upright, and my clothing size never budged. Manly suitors used to ogle my impressive ability to tuck away a rib-eye, I was never a cheap date, heh.
Boy, I miss those days.
And I was fit, running 7-minute miles, popping into 5Ks when I felt like it, rollerblading on Boston’s Esplanade. Picking up and going skiing for the weekend, dancing in clubs for four hours straight, it was all effortless.
Then I hit 32. My metabolism shifted, and I’ve struggled with ups and downs ever since (currently trending downward). A bitter war between my 20s food wantonness and the reality that is a 40-something body. Nearly everyone hits the “I just can’t do this anymore,” point in life. Time to judge fitness and to see where food contributes to overall health.
Of course, food is pretty much everything right? I wonder if I ate well back then could I have been a 6:30 miler and popped into 10Ks … maybe all the crap in the 20s is what pulled the rug out from under my metabolism in my 30s? If I’m being honest, the answer to the last question is yes. Crap catches up to you eventually.
A birthday passed recently, and I’ve been introspective about the next chapter in my life. There have been some diets over the years, I’ve read a LOT of research, and I’ve come to a few conclusions.
All diets are variations on the theme. The consistent thread through every bloody diet I’ve ever been on or read about is 1) lean proteins (animal or veg) and 2) lots of produce. Focus on those two things, cut out the processed sugary crap and guess what you’ll lose weight, sleep better, look better and feel fantastic. I think Michael Pollan summed it up best when he said, “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Kill the sugar. It messes with you. It’s linked as a trigger for a host of deadly diseases. Yes, we adapt to having it in our bodies. Yes, we go through withdrawals when we cut back (THAT should tell you something). Yes, it’s in almost every processed thing in the grocery store. Yes, you need to eliminate added sugar. It’ll be about two weeks of pain and aggravation, but then your taste buds will change, and you’ll feel light and happy.
Food is first; fitness is second. Fitness is so, so important. I’ve been a trainer for 18 years, and I know if I don’t move, my body will fall apart. But, if you don’t properly eat so many long-term things will go wrong. Tracing the sad statistics of obese children, we can see how poor food choices affect long-term health and vibrancy. Most of the top 10 causes of death stem from obesity.
We’re supposed to get hungry. Did you know that? Our bellies should empty a couple of times of day, there should be a little rumble and then we should prepare a meal. We’re not supposed to be grazing all day long from meals to snacks to midnight treats. The free-range attitude is only carbo-sugar bombs meant to prop up your blood/sugar levels until the next hit. Remember those withdrawal symptoms mentioned above, yep, kind of like an addict.
Every diet is hawking “only” one way, but there are several. From Paleo to Weight Watchers, from Jenny Craig to D.A.S.H. every diet markets themselves as the only diet you’ll ever need. Using a diet as a guideline is helpful, enslaving yourself to a particular food dogma is no better than a close-minded political opinion. Fighting over the usefulness of legumes vs. fruit in a diet is ridiculous, do what works best for you.
They are all diets. All of them. Especially the ones who say they aren’t diets. All the plans mentioned above are diets. Not one single one of them admits that, however, saying they are “lifestyle changes.” Well, yes, they are but did you ever go on a “lifestyle plan” when you weren’t looking to drop a few pounds? Thought so. If you just stick with my first point, you’ll be fine.
If you’re feeling out of sorts, if you are glaring dubiously at your bulging waistline, if you are sick of being tired. all. the. time. Take a look at what you’re eating and how you can improve. You know what to do. I know you do.
What do you think? What pearls of wisdom have you acquired over the years? I’d love to hear your stories.