Monday, April 5, 2010

My Friend Jodi's Strategy--Muscle Up, Eat Whole Foods, Lots of It

Good Morning Readers. I'm so glad you are here! Today I would like to introduce you to my friend Jodi, who happens to be my Reformer Pilates instructor. I met her about one year ago, and all I can say is that hanging out with her actually inspires me to want to be more fit. Not a bad quality in a fitness instructor! Thanks for sharing Jodi.

My Relationship to Food

My family is mostly Polish, which means we come from meaty, bigger boned stock who survive on meat and potatoes. I was always told to finish my plate and had to politely ask ‘may I please be excused from the table?’ every night at the dinner table. My parents did not work out, and therefore did not enforce a fitness regimen onto me or my four brothers. This doesn’t mean we were lazy, we still all went through little league (myself included) and running and swimming around like mad as kids do. We drank whole milk, ate hostess snacks, Dorittos, Velveeta cheese, Microwave popcorn with extra butter, and the list of terrible processed food goes on and on. Basically whatever my mother could get in bulk from BJ’s, we ate. She made waffles for dinner, and we put salt on everything including pizza.

So when my overweight father would vocally notice the extra pounds on me or my mother, it’s no wonder in highschool I became weight conscious and obsessed. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, so I would run for miles without stretching. I would eat only labels that back then were the thing to boast “FAT FREE”, not knowing the jargon was code for “extra sugar and salt and other unnatural processed chemicals”. If you saw my prom photo you wouldn’t recognize my chubby face and big arms. I was not popular either, so trying to be thin and pretty was a way to find acceptance.

In college I had a meal card, which to me meant free food, and so my first year of school I used it as though money grew on trees. By the end of my freshmen year I weighed about 140lbs. Now that’s not a huge amount in this day and age, but on my 5’3” smaller sized, yet big boned frame, it was. My first summer of college I went away to perform in shows that consisted of me dancing and singing in 20-minute long shows, 10 times a day at a theme park in New Hampshire. Dancing your butt off in 90 degree humid heat will take those extra pounds off in three short months! So will a really obsessed girl in the cast who introduced me to more fat free tricks and vitamin supplements, not to mention behavior that border-lined as neurotic. I became obsessed with food and with being skinny. No, not just skinny, but bone thin. I wanted people to be able to see my ribs. I wanted people to hug me and feel a frail thin bean pole underneath my clothes. Again, I looked for acceptance and attention.

I returned to school and people could hardly recognize me, though they flattered me with many compliments of how great I looked. So I pressed on. I was learning to dance in a musical theatre program around bean pole ballerinas who lived on apples. Our bodies were our temples, our instruments that people paid money to watch on stage. By the end of my sophomore year I weighed in at a scary 110lbs. That still sounds normal to some people, but on my smaller 5’3”, bigger boned frame, I looked like I had just survived a holocaust. My diet had almost 0 fat in it. There were days I didn’t eat until dinner time, thinking I was doing my body a favor. My mother had had enough when she saw me at the end of the year and to top it off with severe diarreah issues. She sent me to a nutritionist, where I learned about the 40-30-30 system of balanced eating. (40 protein, 30 fat, 30 fiber, I think it is) I danced in more shows that summer and soon became a healthy 120lb girl who stayed within that range for the next 10 years.

After college I worked at a health club where I had free nutritional counseling simply for working there. It was there I started to understand weight vs. body fat %. I looked ok at 120lbs, but with little muscle. My fat % came in at 36%, which was unheard of and considered too high for a 22 year old. I became obsessed again. I hired a trainer at half off (because I worked there) and joined a “lose fat %” contest, and won 6 months later, coming in at a lean 22%.

Through out my 20’s I fell in and out of love with exercise and dieting. I ate what I wanted, and drank what I wanted, almost never ate breakfast, thinking coffee or sugary lattes were enough to sustain me through the mornings. I did not pay attention to food labels, except for the calories, fat, protein, and sugar values. I didn’t care what was in the food, as long as I was full and didn’t gain weight from it. Lean Cuisine meals were cheap and tasted ok, so I ate one every day for lunch. I walked 4 miles about 3 times a week in the summer. I saved up all my “bad foods” and alcoholic drinks for the weekends, where I binged, and made up for it the following week…and so the cycle went on.

Skip ahead 10 more years. I am now 32 years old, between 15 and 18% body fat, and could come close to winning at arm wrestling with most of my brothers. What brought me back from the nutritional dead was my constant type A personality to be the best at everything. I was not very pretty in highschool, but I could sing better than anyone. It wasn’t enough. It never is. I would walk around the gym in my 20’s and look at the beautifully sculpted women and ask them how they got to be so strong and fabulous. I learned by watching and reading.

Then Pilates entered my life, and I was able to focus on the inside. Finally something that made sene. I was able to build up my back muscles and abdominal muscles so that I could carry my posture and stand taller than anyone. When I ran, or lifted, or practiced yoga, all the pieces and parts came together because I was tough, and had the abdominals and back muscles to prove it. Then the foodie in me began to take shape, just as my body had. Suddenly eating a processed meal didn’t sit as well. Fresh vegatables and good old fashioned butter and olive oil felt better than fat free vegetable oil. Real grass fed meats sat better in my stomach than overly salted cold cuts from subway. If I am hungry and have no time to eat, I would never in a million years stop at Wendy’s, no matter how terrible I felt. I would stick it out until a Whole Foods was in sight.

To sum up, I still drink, sometimes too much. I still eat French fries and a pub burger every other month or so. I love food and I almost always still finish my plate. I work out almost 10 times a week and my body is constantly craving food, so I listen to it and feed it. Now I just feed it consistently with whole foods, not partially hydrogenated fructose saturated corn syrupy unnatural chemicals. Raw, wholesome foods.

I could die tomorrow in a car accident, or live to be 103, all I know is no matter when that day inevitably happens, doctors will cut me open and be amazed at how healthy my instrument has been maintained.
 
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