I hope you enjoyed reading Part 1 of my story on how I started getting healthy. Continuing on…..
G and I ‘plié -ed’ and ‘relève -ed’ (Ballet terms) our way through Barre classes imagining our movements to be graceful and swan like. They were not. But we had fun. We sweated our way through Bikram Yoga – me hoping to become like Yoda and G wanting to get rid of toxins. We didn’t achieve either but we learnt the skills required not to pass out in a boiler room should we ever find ourselves locked in one for some reason.
We had also started hitting the gym, swimming over the weekend and hiring a personal trainer. I’ll be honest. I think the barre and yoga definitely helped us along with our posture, getting toned and overall well being but I have no idea what the trainer did. It wasn’t her fault. I don’t know whose fault it was. It was a half hour buddy class and it seemed like it was over before we really stretched. She was a pleasant Russian lady who had trained for the Olympic team when she was a child and as a warm up she had to wear ankle weights and walk around! She was always asking us to eat boiled vegetables, bland baked salmon and if absolutely necessary a small piece of dark chocolate to curb our sweet cravings. We caught on to the last bit alone and G reasoned that dark chocolate was good for the heart and we had to have it. So now we had a bag of dark mini Ghiradelli chocolates at home with varying degrees of darkness. G, ever the rule follower was quite happy with one. I, on the other hand was not. I tried the darkest of them all almost 90 percent dark chocolate which is really bitter. Guess what happened a week later? I now developed a love for dark chocolate and could eat quite a bit of it which defeated the whole purpose. I hope my heart appreciates all my sacrifices. During this period, I also realized what I had always known. I absolutely hated the gym! I hated the machines especially the treadmill and all those intimidating weights that I anyway wasn’t using because of my neck and shoulder problems. I avoided going to the gym whenever I could, preferring to go outside more. Of course in winter which is half the year, it is pretty hard to do that. Anyway after a year or two of contributing to the gym’s expansion I quit and was on the lookout for the next best thing.
Walking is a highly underrated exercise but I will say that that is what really helped me. It is a very slow process and takes time though. I love walking and in NYC that is the fastest mode of transportation. I won’t say I walked myself thin but I walked myself strong which was always the plan. I wanted a lifestyle change not a short term fix.
It was around this time I wanted to clean up my eating a bit more. I was eating out a lot, trying out different restaurants every week fancying myself to be quite the unpaid food critic and my sweet cravings were through the roof. My health was back on track and I was more or less pain free and I was thrilled about that. In an effort to incorporate more healthy food, I looked up different recipes and came across the Paleo way of eating which is avoiding dairy, grains, legumes, sugar, processed oils, salt, alcohol, coffee and basically anything processed. There is a lot of concern against Paleo- that it is too meat based etc. My point is don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. It might not work for everyone. And it depends on what you want to get out of it. And you can always modify it a little. I went Paleo for 30 days and started the Paleo Restart program. Unlike other diets, you are not hungry on Paleo although for a foodie like me, the first week was tough. I started eating a lot of vegetables and ended up experimenting in the kitchen to substitute my favorite foods with healthier options. The hardest part though was giving up chocolate. It.Was.Brutal. I didn’t give up coffee or yogurt entirely though but I did give up sugar in my coffee and only needed a few sips of caffeine to jolt me awake in the morning.
The changes that happened over the next 30 days and a few months after were gradual but quite remarkable. First off, I had boundless amounts of energy. Granted it was summer and the weather was lovely but I hadn’t had this much energy in a long time. I didn’t need an alarm to wake me up nor did I really need that sip of morning java. I was able to workout and socialize more since I had all this energy.I slept better not a lot but I was well rested when I woke up. My skin was clearer and brighter than before. All my usual aches and pains were practically non existent. My mood though. There was no fog of any kind and I was just happy.
On the flip side you will spend an obscene amount of time in the kitchen planning your meals , cooking interesting meals (I suspect I lost a bunch of weight just cooking for hours on end) , having an inventory of your fridge so that you have meals for a few days at a time and don’t end up reaching for less healthy alternatives to avoid being hangry. You will also spend a lot of time going to the grocery store to stock up on fresh produce for the week. Paleo is expensive but eating healthy always is. However there are a lot of blogs which give you wonderful meal plans on a budget.
At the end of 30 days I went back to my usual eating habits but I found myself more aware of what I was putting into my system. My stomach was not a trash can so I wanted to make sure if I did want to eat a little unhealthy it should at least be worth it. I now enjoyed eating all the Paleo foods so I ended up following that for most of the week and one or two days I would have a meal that was non-paleo.
Things you don’t anticipate when you go on a lifestyle change are:
- Some will notice that you look healthier, leaner, happier and will ask – so are you on this diet for some reason ? Or how come you’re suddenly glowing? My advice: Work on your smile muscles. What I actually said : Yes, I did this for you! And I’m glowing coz I soaked up some Vitamin D.
- Over lunch one day a friend requested me not to lose too much weight on my face or it will look horsey. My advice: Work on your punching skills. What I actually said: You’re the first person I will call as soon as I figure out how to control where my weight goes.
- My all time favorite : OMG you lost a lot of weight. You look great now! I have no advice. It’s like they have a disproportionate idea of how you used to look compared to now and you have to appreciate their compliment however backhanded it is. I always want to ask did I not look good before? Coz I was pretty great even then. But I know they are actually being nice when they say this so I don’t take it personally.
- People are genuinely kind and will say that they are happy that I am healthier, pain free and that I look great.
I was Paleo for a few months and then I got busy with work and other commitments and slowly I started falling back into my old eating habits. The benefits of Paleo didn’t leave me for quite a few months and I used to still try and eat healthy as much as I could. Unfortunately, chocolates were back in my diet. But the thing is- my way of thinking about food had changed. I no longer let it dictate me or my moods and I was very mindful of where and how the produce was grown and what I buy. Today, almost all our food has some form of artificial preservatives and not all food labelled organic is truly organic. But we need to do the best we can.
In my next post, I’ll talk a little more on keeping your workouts and nutrition interesting even on vacation along with setbacks in health and diet and how I dealt and am still dealing with them.