“Food is the most intimate thing you can buy…Unlike clothes and shoes that dress the outside, food goes into your body and builds who you become.” – Ani Phyo
I knew I had to share this quote with you. It is the essence of what I mean when I talk about eating to flourish. Think about it and let it sink in. Making decisions about your health takes on a whole new meaning when you know what you want to do with your life and who you want to be, doesn’t it?
Let’s talk about diet a little bit. I’ve studied nutrition, different diets, and medical studies for 45 years. And I’ve been asked the how-to’s of weight loss many times. Over the last 15 years or so, I’ve shared a lot of what I’ve learned with you, so you probably know that maintaining a certain Body Mass Index (BMI) is best. (A BMI of 25 or under, FYI.) You probably also know that eating low-glycemic foods keeps your blood sugar from spiking. Rapid changes in blood sugar levels stimulate cravings, which leads to weight gain, and increase the likelihood of systemic inflammation, which leads to chronic degenerative diseases. I’m sure you also know it’s almost impossible to stay trim without exercise, and that even a little exercise goes a long way.
Ultimately, reaching and maintaining healthy body composition and vibrant health through the right food choices happens in both your mind and body. Trust me—merely sticking to the latest fad diet or reaching for the perfect BMI won’t bring about the transformation. It is, indeed, personal.
What you eat—and when—affects your emotions and spirit as well. Of course you know there are often emotional reasons behind gain weight (or becoming too thin). Ignoring the emotional component of weight gain (or loss) can sabotage you when you’re in the midst of the diet wars. Some people eat because they’re bored, sad, or lonely. And you may be one of them. Women often drown their sorrows in a bowl of ice cream after a break up. We’ve all done it! It feels good for a few minutes. But it really doesn’t support the person you ultimately want to be—a happy, whole individual with a satisfying life.
I know many women who use food as a reward, too. You’ve all heard someone say: “When I finish this project, I’ll treat myself to a pizza.” (Or whatever.) Now that you’ve read Ani Phyo’s quote, is this how you want to reward yourself? And is it really a treat?
Now, I’m not saying you should never have pizza or ice cream, etc. Every once in a while, I crave garlic mashed potatoes or gooey chocolate brownies and I go for it! Without the guilt. That’s because I’m a big proponent of the 80/20 rule (or, realistically, the 90/10 rule). I also try to indulge with high quality choices. It’s OK to give into cravings sometimes. What’s important is you’re still choosing a better quality of life.
A good strategy is to find a healthier substitute. For example, I use Stevia in place of white sugar; savor a square of organic dark chocolate instead of gulping down a pile of stale, leftover Halloween candy; or eat a thin crust pizza with lots of veggies instead of a deep dish pizza with a thick crust.
One of the reasons I chose to share this quote is that at this time of year you start to think about baring your body in a bathing suit. If you live in a climate with a cold winter, it’s quite common to be drawn to comfort foods during the dark, cold days only to find in April that you’ve gained 10-15 pounds. I want you to have a reason to lose weight that goes beyond the superficial drive to look good in a bathing suit.
If you’re looking for a way to put Ani Phyo’s philosophy into practice, don’t bother looking at supermodels for inspiration. Genetically, most women will never look like one—and it would be unhealthy for them to try. It’s not about having a perfect body. (Whatever that is!) It’s about having the perfect body for you, specifically what you want to do with it.
Consider the grandmother who easily gets up from the floor after playing with her grandchildren for hours. Is this who you want to be? Perhaps it’s a senior executive who has stamina to travel, work long hours, and truly thrive in a career she loves? Or maybe it’s a young, full-time mom who wants to have lots of energy? Or a college student who doesn’t want to put on that “freshmen 15” because it will mean a slip in her self-confidence?
One of the reasons that I stay healthy and fit is my passion for Argentine Tango. I plan to dance well into my 90’s.
Once you find your inspiration, then check out my chapters on diet and nutrition in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and the Wisdom of Menopause for more how-to’s. Chapter 17 “Eat to Flourish” in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom should be particularly helpful to you. There are also many articles on this Web site that give specific instructions for conquering weight gain, especially at midlife.
In honor of Mother’s Day, a day when we celebrate women everywhere, I encourage you to eat in a way that supports the happy, dynamic, sensual, intelligent, fun, playful, spiritual, successful, studious, serious, organized, and/or joyous woman inside you!