I love junk food. I have an overwhelming sweet tooth. I grew up in a household in which gluttony was ritualistic bonding experience and healthy eating was neither a point of discussion nor a even a knowledge that was just being dismissed.
In my young adulthood I started to exercise frequently. I was so disciplined at one point that I actually woke in the wee, dark hours of early morning to hit the gym before work. I was one of the few “round” bodies that braved the otherwise skinny girl yoga classes of NYC. I was strong, but I was still heavy. Ultimately, I discovered that dress size is more closely correlated to food intake than to calorie burn.
My first experience with Weight Watchers was extremely positive. I lost 20lbs. I learned about nutrition, empty calories, and the benefits of making high value, lower calorie choices. Like most dieters, however, I had a back slide, and over a few years, the knowledge I had was easily ignored for quick and easy satisfaction, and thus the weight came back. After much reluctance, I started to make changes.
I made changes slowly. The first thing I did was increase my activity. This is important, because as I’ve already noted, while I’ve never lost weight by exercising, I do find that a fit body is an important foundation for any weight loss regime. I am not exaggerating either when I said this was a slow process. Looking back now, I started a regular work out routine about three years ago. I had one video that I could barely get through, squats and lunges made me faint, my planks would collapse far earlier than the stick-insects demonstrating the moves.
Consistency worked for me, and now I can zoom through the routine. I just kept doing the video over and over, and slowly I got stronger. Once I started to see muscle definition, it was a motivation like none other I’d ever experienced. I started to look forward to working out, and tried different, more challenging routines. I LOVE squats and lunges because they tone my legs like nothing else out there and make me feel strong. Plus, since quads are the largest muscle in the body, they help to increase metabolism and burn more calories at rest.
There was muscle definition, but I was still gaining weight. So I recognized the next step was to alter my diet. This I did not do slowly. I re-joined Weight Watchers and quite quickly lost 10lbs. Eating a diet high in vegetables and fruits, and cutting out meats, cheese, cream-based food, and bread (I live in Switzerland, so the absence of these four food types in ones diet is much more challenging here than you might imagine).
Unlike exercising though, diet has a different effect on me. Whereas fitness results motivated me to do more, dieting results weakened my resolve to eat less. Or rather, eat well, because no matter what I know about nutrition and efficient calories, I still love junk food, and I still have a sweet tooth. The reality is that my single favorite food is ice cream—you know that hypothetical question asking what you would choose to eat if you could only have one thing the rest of your life, I can answer it without skipping a beat: ice cream.
A diet routine in not unlike a fitness regime, in that the more you do it, the easier it gets. The problem with a sustained diet of any kind is boredom and frustration. The best example of my progress is my love affair with bread. The idea of giving up bread, pasta, and other carbs was once so ridiculous to me. But I saw an immediate difference in my weight by limiting breads. So I stopped eating them. This was hard. At first. Many, many months later, I still don’t eat bread, but now I don’t really miss it much at all. It took my mind and/or body some time to adjust to life without carbs, but it has.
I am happy to say that I have the most fit I have been in my life. I can rock a Jillian Michaels’ routine and only curse her existence two or three times rather than during every un-catchable breath. I have even lost a dress size or two. My diet is a delicate practice in moderation. I recognize that I will never be that person who passes on dessert at a party, and I will never claim to crave kale. The balance for me is making the smart choice most of the time, while allowing myself those (if I am honest I will have to qualify with the adjective “grand”) indulgences less-frequently.
What do I mean by that. Well, truthfully, I love McDonald’s. Yes, I’ve seen Super Size Me and I know the reality about what I am eating when I go there and bite into food that has been processed into some of the tastiest bites I’ve ever experienced. Watching an early season of Top Chef, the chef who went on to win the title actually described the delicacy of sweet breads by explaining that when done right it tastes just like chicken mcnuggets.
My husband and I would hit McDonald’s more than a couple times a month. I told him that for my pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, that is too much. I will never pretend to give up McDonald’s, but what I will do is limit how often I go. Leave the experience for those real cravings rather than a whim or laziness. And I am exceedingly happy that when my husband mentioned he was craving McDonald’s last night, I told him to go and get it. After all, we’d not been for well over two months. But I declined. He asked if I was sure, not even fries? Nope. I was not craving it, so I would not eat it due only to suggestion.
I woke up to this sunny morning in Geneva, without that post-McDonald’s pit in my stomach, not feeling regret at what I did not eat or deprived in any way, but rather, feeling proud of myself for simply allowing my mind and body to work together towards a balanced, if not always entirely healthy, diet.