Make Health Decisions Out of Self Love, Not Fear
Last night I sat across from a health club owner at a dinner party. We all introduced ourselves around the table. When my turn came and the guests heard I was a health writer/real food advocate, I was asked about the vegan diet. If you’re familiar with my program you know that I don’t support the vegan diet because the vegan diet doesn’t support the human body. The health club owner was particularly interested in what I had to say because one of his employees is apparently a train wreck who jumps from one extreme to another.
This behavior has fear written all over it. Being back in LA I see the fear on people’s faces. I know this fear. Fear of aging, fear of being fat and out of shape. Vanity driven fear.
I started dieting when I was eight years old because I feared being fat. As far back as eighteen years old I remember feeling fearful about aging! I was driven for twenty years to stay thin with an addiction to running. In my forties, I experienced a thyroid crash and gained twenty-five pounds, which was the culmination of all of my worst fears. I developed my Healthy, Sexy, Happy program during my recovery and I’m feeling pretty good about myself now. Still, my next birthday I’ll be sixty-one. You can imagine how I feel about that. It never ends!
Conquering fear is an ongoing process. I’ve learned that freaking out and knee jerk reacting to fear not only doesn’t help, but ends up doing damage. I’m calmer now, more accepting and philosophical because I’ve learned to operate from a position of self love rather than fear. Loving yourself allows you the freedom first of all to think rationally. Fear is extremely mind-muddling.
If you’re driven to make bad health decisions out of fear, it may take you a while to fully detach from that way of being. Let’s look at some typical age/beauty/fitness fears and how we can overcome, accept, and make the best of these circumstances.
Fear of being fat
Fear of being out of shape
Fear of aging (wrinkles, flab, sags, and bags)
Fear of being fat
The fear of being fat fuels the billion dollar diet industry with pills, systems, best selling diet books, and programs.
If I have to type this a zillion times I will until people start getting it: Dieting always fails. There are lots of studies that back this up. But more important than studies in my opinion is empirical evidence. What you see with your eyes. Do people who diet lose weight and keep it off? Very few. I’ve gone over and over the reasons for this in both Death by Supermarket and Healthy, Sexy, Happy. Suffice it to say here that dieting causes chaos in your body and your brain. Your body breaks down on a cellular level and rebuilds 24/7/365. The breaking-down process clears out the old cells and cellular material (enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters), and then the rebuilding process begins. This intricate replacement process requires that we eat food to use as building materials. Your body is programmed for survival and it can’t survive on fat from fat cells. Fat is energy only. It doesn’t make the dynamic tissues in your body that are constantly disposed of and replaced. The chaos that ensues when you inflict famine on your body causes your brain to crave (demand) sustenance and you will ultimately binge. Your thyroid is also down-regulated (so that your metabolism is less efficient). Your pancreas is alerted to secrete more insulin as a response to incoming food so that more of the food you eat will be stored as an insurance policy against the next famine. When you do give in to craving and binging you will blimp out.
In addition to chronic dieting there are dietary extremes that also create chaos in the body and brain: Atkins, any kind of packaged diet system that relies on factory produced food, raw food diets that exclude cooked foods and animal protein, vegan regimes, vegetarian diets that rely pretty much exclusively on refined carbs, fruit juice fasts, any approach that incorporates soy. I do want to emphasize that people who don’t eat animal foods because they respect animals often do so for honorable reasons. Loving animals does not change human physiology. Some people go on vegan diets out of fear though, fear of not conforming to a popular philosophy, fear of being a bad person. I won’t be popular for saying this, but many of the vegans I’ve encountered are angry and defensive. This isn’t a healthy state of being, and it begs the question how healthy is it to be a vegan. (But we’re getting off the subject.) Extreme diets often rely on factory produced packaged products.
The self-love solution to being fat
I advocate eating a balanced diet of historically eaten real, whole, living food that could be picked, gathered, milked, hunted, or fished that was grown or raised in a clean environment and hasn’t had any science fiction processing done to it. Eat food that was eaten 150 years ago before foods were processed. The chaotic time of famine will end and your body will shrink down to its optimal body weight. (Balance is different for everyone. You can find your metabolic set point and examples of meal plans appropriate for your set point in Healthy, Sexy, Happy.)
Being out of shape
Whether you need to lose body fat or you’re doing okay with your weight, most people have a certain amount of fear around exercise. We’re told to work out at our upper working heart rate for thirty to forty minutes three times a week to maintain cardiovascular health. Motivated by fear of flab or death, we’ve all experienced the inertia and dread of getting on a treadmill or stair-climber and enduring the tedium of daytime TV.
Then there are others (like I used to be) who are motivated by vanity to over-exercise and take it to the extreme. If this goes on for a long period of time, although the person may achieve satisfaction in being thin, you’ll see evidence of accelerated aging on the person’s gaunt face with severe nasal labial folds. And other body parts break down too: hips, knees, spines.
Unless you take care to provide your body with enough fuel and more importantly building materials (proteins and fats) extreme exercise breaks the body down faster than it can rebuild. This is accelerated aging.
The self-love solution to being out of shape
The medical community would have us believe that we can work out three times a week, eat “heart healthy” cereal, take cholesterol lowering drugs, and drink as much coffee as we want to and we’ll be just fine. Yes, fine enough to make it long enough for the paramedics to arrive.
An exercise program without real food is not going to protect you from heart disease.
First become educated about how metabolism really works. It’s not just “high” or “low” metabolism, but a complex orchestration of all the processes that enable you to be a living, breathing human being. Metabolism requires fuel and without fuel any exercise regimen is doomed to fail. Understanding where you are metabolically now is key to where you want to be six months or a year from now. Find your balance and work from that point. (Your metabolic set point and how much fuel you need for balances is all in Healthy, Sexy, Happy.) Suffice it to say that you need to eat a balanced diet of real, whole, living food over a prolonged period of time—including healthy fats every day like butter, meat, eggs, whole milk, coconut milk, and cod liver oil—so that as you break down during your workouts you will build back up with quality building materials. Power bars no matter how much they scream “organic” on the label, are not real food. Gatorade is garbage (high fructose corn syrup). Sugar fuels aging, healthy fats fuel anti-aging.
Make it a goal to get in shape over a longer period of time, say six months to one year. Schedule exercise on your calendar. If you don’t, something else will get scheduled in. When you combine exercise with real, whole, living food you’ll be thrilled at the changes you see in the mirror and those outward manifestations of health are an indication of what’s going on inside you. Health!
Fear of aging (wrinkles, flab, sags, and bags)
Fear of aging drives people to do crazy things like take diet pills, drink Diet Coke, starve (and binge), get fake tans in very dangerous tanning beds, work out too much, and other extreme measures that create landslides of free radicals in your system that age you rapidly. In fact, the majority of Americans are aging in an accelerated way. I often see women in their twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties who look older than me and I’m sixty.
The self-love solution to aging
Can you fix aging with creams, lotions, hair extensions, eyelash extensions, facials, massages, manicures, pedicures and so on? Your face may feel creamier, and your hair might look thicker, and you feel temporarily more relaxed but anything you do to your outside is only plastering. If you want to fix your outward appearance you have to do it from the inside out.
Can you fix aging with plastic surgery? In my opinion, plastic surgery is fantastic for a tune up once you’ve done everything you can to be optimally healthy. Overhauls generally do not produce pretty results. So if you’re eating a factory food diet, taking a lot of drugs, being sedentary, and giving in to stress with coffee, Diet Coke, sugar, and other stimulants and then foregoing sleep because you’re too amped up, don’t think you can eventually go in for plastic surgery to fix the devastation caused by accelerated aging.
When the Buddha came to the realization that everyone ages, gets sick, and dies, do you think that people were any less vanity driven back then? People have always wanted to stay youthful, and have always wanted to live longer. You can calm your fears with a little bit of self-compassion meditation every day. I like Metta (loving kindness) meditation. Simply sit in a quiet spot for 5 minutes or longer, close your eyes and repeat the Metta phrases in your head: May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be at ease. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the phrase. (Noticing your mind wandering is called “mindfulness” and will help you enormously as your practice deepens.)
There is no other way to prolong youth and years other than taking care of your most precious possessions, your body, mind, and spirit. My entire program is based on building up more than you break down. If you eat, drink, sleep, exercise, and behave with this simple truth in mind, you will ultimately see results that will calm your fears. Add in a little bit of meditation to help calm your mind and spirit. You will experience a beautiful epiphany.
Peace, Fun, Love
Your Girlfriend in Health,