Like many people in the U.S. and other developed countries, I’ve struggled with my weight. In high school and college, I was 20-30 pounds heavier than I am now. During those days I was desperate to lose weight, I wanted to look like the fashion models on the covers of Vogue magazine and tried every diet imaginable, from the grapefruit diet to wrapping cellophane around my waist and sitting in a sauna. Then, I simply tried not eating at all, which obviously wasn’t a good idea and ultimately didn’t work. People called me “healthy” and “big-boned”, what does that mean? I remember praying, “Please God, make me twenty pounds thinner…” Did I think I’d actually wake up a slimmer version of myself without having to give up Hostess cupcakes? Yes.
Now that I’m older (and wiser) I can have my Hostess cupcake and eat it too. Don’t hate me, but I eat what I want and weigh 106 pounds, give or take a couple. What’s my secret? There is no miracle pill or special diet. Burning up to 1000 calories an hour, I teach Zumba® Fitness classes, lift weights on occasion and walk a lot. Exercising daily allows me to indulge in an occasional (Sprinkles) cupcake or popcorn and candy at the movies. About 80% of my diet is really, really good, filled with lots of lean meat and organic vegetables. 20%, not so much. But this isn’t rocket science. Here are six simple rules: 1. Exercise at least 30 minutes daily. Do at least 45 minutes of cardio 3x/week. 2. Stay away from processed foods and anything labeled “diet”, which usually means chemically modified. If it’s in a box on a shelf it’s not really food. The closer to the hoof, the ground or the tree food is, the better. 3. (this is a tough one for me) Limit white sugar and white flour. ‘nuff said. 4. Eat organic whenever possible & stay away from Genetically Modified Foods (GMFs). More on this later. 5. Eat meat 3x per week. Meat refers to chicken as well -- and not Chicken McNuggets! (See #2). When I’m home, I eat venison every day. It’s pure, lean protein, not marbled with fat. 6. Eat Mindfully and listen to your body. My downfall (besided Sprinkles cupcakes) is eating while watching TV. I don’t realize I’ve inhaled the whole bag of chips when I’m watching Access Hollywood with Mario Lopez. My latest snack trend is a bowl of lightly salted organic popcorn with raw almonds, pumpkin seeds and chocolate covered Goji berries mixed in.
I try to eat only when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full – which really upsets my husband who is a member of the Eat-Everything-On-Your-Plate club. Because of that, Ted and I share meals. Always. Most restaurants pile enough food to feed a family of four onto one plate. Other than on Thanksgiving, we don’t need that much food. Think about the last time you were truly hungry. In the United States, we tend to live to eat, while in other parts of the world, they eat to live.
Obesity is a pandemic in the United States, but not in nations where survival is based on food gathering. In Africa, to which we’ve traveled often, eating meat is a gift - nourishment for the body and soul. Many Americans, however, have strayed from our (hunting) heritage and eat fatty, processed foods instead of real meat and vegetables.
Having taught aerobics since 1980, I subscribed to all the low-calorie, diet this-and-that, and even (gasp!) vegetarianism. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good salad. I even throw spinach into my smoothies (Shh! Don’t tell Ted!) Vegetables are an important part of our diet, but so is meat.
Our ancestors were meat-eaters. Most people in other parts of the world eat meat, and lots of it! In Romans 14:2-3 it says “One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, who’s faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” Vegetarians must be upset with that one, but the truth is, the kind of protein we get from meat is critical to our health and wellbeing. It repairs tissues, builds our immune system, and contains all essential amino acids, vitamin A, B and D, which helps strengthen bones and the nervous system. Venison is our choice for protein sustenance. There’s never been a case of E-coli or salmonella poisoning in venison. It is not fed up with chemicals and steroids. Deer eat natural, pesticide-free vegetation and roam free, like the popular free-range meat which costs twice as much in the grocery store.
With venison on the menu almost daily for the past 23 years, I’ve never been more than 5 pounds heavier than the day Ted and I were married, with the exception of course, being when I was pregnant. The contributing factor, I believe, is that making meat a huge part of my diet has helped me maintain my weight.
Like most people, I still worry when the scale inches toward a higher number or two, but I hit the gym hard and back off on the Sprinkles cupcakes when I do. Exercise is part of my daily life, thank goodness. I don’t kill myself, but I try to do something every day. And the harder I workout, the more my body craves meat. After a recent 3-hour Zumba® Jam Session and 90 minute master class (in the same day), all I could think about was having a hamburger. My body craved it. Now, if I could just back off the French fries…