Around 1995, I was twenty-eight years old and somewhat overweight. I began an excruciating exercise program of power walking/jogging 35-40 miles per week, plus an additional 20 miles on the bike. Did I lose the weight? Sure. Think of the calories I was burning! I thought I was eating healthier too, but learned later that what I thought was healthy, really wasn’t.
I was even featured in Shape magazine’s “Success Stories” in July 1998. (Pictured below).
A few years later, I started gaining a little bit of weight back, even though I was wearing myself out with exercise. I came across an article that said as we age, our metabolism slows down due to natural muscle mass decreases, so we need to increase our calorie burning exercise. If we don’t, we gain 10 lbs every few years, even though we are still exercising. I remember thinking, “WHAT?!” I was exercising myself to death to keep the weight off, and now I’m going to need to continually increase the intensity and distance, just to keep from gaining? That discouragement was the beginning of the end of my exercise-warrior days.
My Weight Increased and My Health Declined
I gradually began to put the weight back on and gained many more pounds in addition. Over the years, my health began to decline—high cholesterol, high blood pressure, swollen and painful joints, and hormonal issues. I was only in my forties, and my lack of health had become a source of great stress. I couldn’t imagine what I would be like in my 60’s. My joints already hurt so much!
Then in February 2013, everything changed for me. After a year of my daughter asking me to watch a documentary called, Forks Over Knives, I finally did. That changed everything.
I learned that I’d had it backwards all these years! Optimal health wasn’t all about exercising more. It was about eating the right foods. Not chicken and fish like I had thought, but whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits!
Although I had thought chicken and fish were low-fat, the truth is that while the leanest cut of beef is around 28% calories from fat, white, skinless chicken is nearly the same at 24% of calories from fat! Tuna is 21% and salmon 40%. Eggs are 70% fat! My weight loss efforts were failing because I was doing everything wrong.
Nutrition is Key
With my new understanding about nutrition, I have finally been able to lose all the pounds and maintain a healthy weight. I’ve done it despite the fact that I’m older and should have a slower metabolism, and I’ve done it without jogging 35 miles & biking 20 miles a week. I understand now that while exercise and stress management are important, the real key—80% of the equation—is nutrition. My transformation came not through excruciating workouts but by eating PLANTS!
Now, my exercise consists of walking and hiking with my German shepherd daily for 30-45 minutes and doing gentle yoga four days a week. That’s all it takes—not an exercise warrior mentality!
Every good fitness program starts with walking. Walking is by far the most underrated form of exercise. Not only does it burn calories, it also reduces stress and helps regulate your wake-sleep cycle, especially if done outdoors.
My cholesterol runs around 141 these days, and my joints are excellent! I no longer suffer from inflammation and pain. I no longer worry about a slowing metabolism as I age or needing to forever increase my exercise program. These days, I’m older and smarter. I know the truth.
Exercise and stress management are very important pieces to the health puzzle; it’s not whole without them. But, nutrition is the biggest piece of the picture. “You can’t outrun your fork.”