An Inspirational Story That Breaks Away From The "D" Word
I remember the first time I ever felt "fat". I was eight years old and it was the first day of rehearsals for a children’s theatre production of “Aesop’s Fables”. You know – “The Goose With The Golden Egg”, “The Hare and the Tortoise”, “The Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing” - those. I had been cast as City Mouse in “The City Mouse and the Country Mouse” portion of the play, and was terribly distraught. I did not want to be the City Mouse, not at all. I wanted to play Sadie, the youngest and funniest of the four narrating sheep. Sadie was not a smart sheep. She delivered the punch line of every joke, and even in childhood I was drawn to comic-relief character roles. Also, the narrating sheep got to be on stage between every fable, making them the largest and most coveted parts in the show.
But I was not cast as Sadie. I was cast as City Mouse. So, who was the little girl that got to play Sadie? What did she have that I did not have? She was obviously better than me in some way and I wanted to know in what way it was. As soon as I saw ‘Sadie’, I thought I knew exactly why she had gotten the part and I had not. It was simple: She was petite and I was slightly overweight. It was the most immediate and discerning conclusion that I could come up with, and it was true. I was a chubby kid. And so, the ongoing battle with weight and food. Thus, the counting, depriving and worrying began; before I’d gotten my period, thought of kissing a boy or even needed a bra.
I bet some of you have a story similar to mine; a moment when an awareness of size and shape crept into your thoughts and remained there constantly throughout puberty and even into adulthood. For me, often it was just a little ping – a glimpse in the mirror that reminded me that I should just have eaten salad for dinner. But sometimes, it was all-consuming. I kept journals with calories and fat grams tallied and restricted myself in ridiculous ways that weren't possible to maintain. Sometimes, the awareness even masqueraded itself as a positive thing! ‘Oh, Drew texted me! He must’ve finally noticed me because I lost six pounds!’. More often, it served as a negative excuse; Drew didn't lose interest in me because we had nothing in common – he lost interest in me because I gained three of those pounds back.
For fifteen years, I was convinced that there was a secret that all the skinny and fit girls knew and I didn't I bought every magazine with Jessica Simpson’s 'Daisy Duke Weight Loss Secrets!' and Britney Spears' 'Workout Routine!' on the cover. I watched what the cheerleaders, other actresses at drama conservatory, or whoever it was I was comparing myself with was eating for lunch. It was miserable, mostly because it didn't actually matter how much I weighed or what size I was; that struggle and worry was never alleviated. The guilt that was associated with eating never subsided.
Through all those years, you know what I didn't understand? I didn't understand that these girls I admired, who were the pinnacle of physical beauty, had a priority that was different than mine: Health. Peak physical condition is a result of caring for your body. Caring for your body is different than trying to be skinny, just like trying to make someone love you is different than being a loving partner. And guess what? That’s the secret. Caring for your health is a lot easier than trying to be skinny.
People who care for –not about - their bodies have more motivation to make healthy choices. I know this, because I started caring for my health and taking care of my body ten months ago when I discovered the Paleo lifestyle. The foundation of the Paleo Diet goes like this: Look at the human race as a football field (that’s 100 yards for those of you who aren't sports oriented). In those 100 yards, human genetics have scarcely evolved….but what we put into our bodies has changed drastically since the Paleolithic period, when humans subsided mainly on lean, grass fed meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and dried berries. We have not adapted to processing grains, gluten, refined sugars, and dairy, which were only added to the human diet in the last ½ a yard of those 100 yards of our species. Half a yard.
Frankly, even if we had adapted to processing those complex carbohydrates, only a small percentage of the population expends enough energy to use them (think Olympians, professional athletes and marathoners). When you exercise, your body first converts its storage of fat into energy (healthy fats like avacado and nuts are a huge part of Paleo eating). Next, it converts the simple sugars that are stored (essentially from fruits) and then move onto simple carbohydrates (like ones found in nuts or vegetables) to supply energy. It takes an extended period of vigorous activity for your body to actually need complex carbohydrates (like grains and refined sugars) for energy.
So, it makes sense to avoid grain, gluten, refined sugar, and dairy - right? It’s the first way of eating I've discovered that is logical. Weight Watcher’s point system, for instance, only strengthens the negative thought process that there are “good foods” and “bad foods”. The South Beach Diet allows candies but not (all) fruits in Phase 1. The Atkins Diet is so restrictive that some vegetables and all nuts are banned foods, and many essential vitamins and nutrients are lost. All of these popular diets require a limited amount of calorie consumption. It’s no sot with Paleo! I eat when I’m hungry and do not eat when I’m full. The only requirement is that the food consumed is not a grain, does not contain gluten or refined sugar, and is dairy free. I never realized logic and reason would contribute to my healthy lifestyle !
A Normal day of Paleo food intake looks like this:
Breakfast: Egg scramble with onions, spinach, tomato, and avacado with ½ a banana and some berries
Snack: Celery with almond butter and raisins – Ants On A Log! A childhood fave!
Lunch: Lean bison patties with romaine lettuce, as many veggies as I want, and Cindy’s Kitchen Honey Mustard Dressing
Dessert: Paleo muffin (yes, you can still eat baked goods!)
Snack: Fruit smoothie made with coconut water
Dinner: Pan seared salmon with mushrooms and asparagus. Carrots with hummus as an appetizer!
Snack: Cashews or pistachios
I have no idea how many calories that day would total. No longer is my food intake based on the number on a scale; in fact, I haven’t weighed myself at all in the time since I discovered how to be motivated by health, but I know that I’ve gone down nearly three sizes due to it. My skin glows brighter, I have more energy, more lean muscle, my teeth are even whiter. The worry and guilt that plagued me most of my conscious life is gone. I feel sexy! And not hungry. Which probably contributes to the sexy-factor.
I thought for years that I knew how to implement a healthy lifestyle, but I wasn’t disciplined enough to actually do it. Paleo eating may sound intimidating and restrictive at first, but the trade off of emotional gratification and physical health is far greater than any challenge it presents.