Whenever I’m with my family or I’m back home, sleeping in the room I grew up in, distant memories randomly flood into my brain. The memories seem random, but I have a theory that it’s always for a specific reason.
I’m not sure what sparked it, but last weekend while visiting home, I had a flashback image of myself at our family cabin. The memory was of me laying on the bed with a book, watching TV. That’s pretty much all we do up there – watch TV and read. Oh, and EAT, of course! But that’s one of the reasons why I love visiting the cabin – I veg out and usually find a random TV show marathon to binge watch for days on end, never changing out of my pajamas. Watching marathons on cable also entails watching a lot of commercials. Usually, the exact same commercials over, and over, and over again.
That was the specific memory that came up – watching a commercial. I remember watching a commercial for Nutrisystem. I was probably around 11 or 12 years old, but I had seen that same commercial for years prior, and I saw it for many years afterwards as well. If you’re not sure what Nutrisystem is, it’s basically a meal delivery service that claims to help with weight loss. What really struck me about the memory, though, was remembering my attitude toward that commercial. At the time I had no idea how twisted my mindset was.
I hated all of the infomercials on TV, but I had decided that Nutrisystem was my favorite of the ones I watched (if I had to pick). At every single commercial break, I was either subjected to something about Proactiv, the SPCA, or something related to weight-loss. Among those, the options were Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, or Slim Fast.
Let me just walk you through my thoughts, as an 11-year-old girl, watching these infomercials. At the time, I didn’t fully realize the implications of these thoughts, or really that I was having them at all.
My thoughts / feelings about these infomercials were:
A) They were incredibly boring to watch – who likes infomercials?
B) They’re INFOmercials, so they must have been giving me information (truthful information, I thought) that I needed to know.
C) Since there were so many infomercials about ways to keep weight off and/or lose weight, there must be a high demand for that service. And it’s all women in the commercials. Basically, it seemed like all middle-aged women need some kind of help with their weight.
D) If all middle-aged women need some kind of help with their weight, I’ll most likely need some kind of service like that when I grow up, too. (The same way I had ordered Proactiv the week before because that was THE WAY to cure acne, which we all had, right?!)
E) I should prepare for that, now, even though I’m 11, since it’s inevitable in the future. Nutrisystem seems like the best option because the food actually looks good (I don’t like Slim Fast shakes, and the brownies on the Nutrisystem commercials were very enticing), and I don’t like exercise. Nutrisystem infomercials tell me all I have to do is eat the meals and I’ll be “skinny” – no exercise required. Also, I don’t want to admit this – but the women in the Nutrisystem commercial are skinnier than the women on the Jenny Craig and Weight Watcher’s commercials, so it must work better.
…Wow. I hate to admit that’s how I thought, but I’m just being completely honest here.
So, there I was. 11-years-old and already trying to figure out what I was going to do when I hit my 30s, because I was destined to gain weight and become unhappy with my body. It was inevitable, right?! Otherwise, why would there be so many commercials about it? Why would so many women be struggling with it? Why would every magazine article be about losing weight and getting in shape?
I accepted what I thought was my bleak future, and I decided to do what I could, right then, to make myself feel better about it. That meant figuring out what my plan of attack would be (Nutrisystem seemed like the best option at that point), and also making sure to “enjoy my youth” while my metabolism was still high and I didn’t have to worry about my weight. By “enjoying my youth,” I thought that meant binge eating cookies and cake whenever I wanted – those days were numbered!
It took me a very long time to realize this, but that train of thinking is eventually what led me into my binge-eating disorder many years later. It was in my youth that I decided it was “okay” to use food as a way to avoid my feelings, and I decided I should take advantage of the fact that I could eat “whatever I wanted” without anything “bad” happening. Or, so I thought.
Every time a woman made a comment, “You’re so lucky you can eat that. It would go straight to my thighs…” I immediately felt a sense of urgency to fit in all of the delicious, unhealthy food that I could before I hit 30 and gained weight. Everyone told me that was going to happen, eventually. And exercising was a waste of time right now – I wouldn’t need that until I was older and was struggling with my weight. That struggle was inevitable.
It pains me to think about my mindset as an 11-year-old. I wish I could go back and tell her many things, but here is one of them:
It is not inevitable.
You are in control of your own health. You can take control of your health. You are not destined for weight gain, joint pain, fertility issues, a degrading body, chronic digestive issues, acne, body hate, depression, anxiety, dementia, brain fog, fatigue, or anything else you currently struggle with / fear you will struggle with in the future. If you take control of your health now, you are not destined for those things in the future.
Other people… companies…the GOVERNMENT…They might make you think that you are destined for one or all of those things. The truth is, they want us to think that we are so that the system works. If we believe we are destined for these problems, we will follow their advice to avoid these problems. We will buy their programs and their products, we will eagerly drink in their “information”, and we will continue the cycle. The sad truth is that these companies will feed into your insecurities and your fears, and they will prey on them. These companies depend on repeat customers. They tell you they will fix your problem, they trick you into believing they can, and then you keep going back to them over and over again when the problem is never fixed. Or worse, when it becomes more of a problem.
It took far too many doctors and health issues for me to realize all of these things. I feel fortunate enough to have discovered, at such a young age, that I can take control of my health and shape my own future. There is nothing I am more passionate about, and nothing I wish I could tell every other young person out there more.
Take control NOW.
Do not wait for a diagnosis in 10, 20, 30 years. Do not wait for the annoying symptoms to get worse. Do not let your hormonal problems now worsen menopause later. Do not let your digestive issues now disrupt your body and cause brain deterioration as an older adult. Do not let your obsession with being thin – overexercising and undereating – destroy your metabolism so that you make things much harder for your 40-year-old self. Don’t let your brain fog persist or your laziness ensue.
And if you don’t feel those things now, staring at you in the face, then think about your future self. Protect that future self, and set her up for a vibrant, healthy life. You don’t want to look back and think, What did I do to myself?
When I was 11, I wanted to find a way to prevent what was going to happen, and to start taking control. I was aware of my “destiny.” The thing was, that wasn’t my destiny. And I did have the power to take control, I just didn’t know how.
Changing my lifestyle transformed my life. I never thought I had any “symptoms.” I thought it was all normal. It wasn’t until I changed my habits, my diet, and my lifestyle that I realized how much better I felt, and how much really was wrong before. It took those changes to launch me into a love for research on aging and longevity, and that love for research allowed me to recognize how lucky I was to have caught things early on. There are so many things I did in my youth that were not good for my older self, and I want to do everything I can to undo that damage now.
I want to live a long life, where I’m cognitively sharp until the day I die. I want to stay moving my whole life – to be able to throw my grandkids in the air, go on walks with my hubs, and even lift some heavy weight. That image of the old lady in her walker moving at -3 mph.. I don’t want that to be me. That’s an image conjured up by the media, trying to tell you you’re destined for that future. You’re not, if you make the right choices now.
Or even before that – I don’t want to be 35 dealing with hormonal imbalances, frustrating weight gain, infertility problems, or brain fog. The media might imply that’s my destiny, but it’s not. Well, it would be if I kept playing their game, and if I kept following the Standard American way of living.
Or maybe not even following the Standard American way of living, but feeding into the fears that others in the media push upon us. Over the weekend, many of you saw me repost a repost from my friend Amie from Rebelle Nutrition. Amie reposted a woman’s photo outlining her food for the day, after having run 7 miles. The woman’s daily caloric intake was 1200-1300 calories, and in the comments she claimed that eating 1200 calories a day was right for her and her female clients, and if she ate any more she would be a “house.” Oh, did I mention she is a dietitian?
This is the type of information that horrifies me. This woman is a dietitian, putting other women on low-calorie meal plans. 1200 calories might be enough if you’re six years old and lay on the couch all day long, maybe. I had this experience many times myself – RD after RD told me to eat 1200 calories or less a day, even when I wanted to gain weight. Why? Maybe because that’s all they knew, or maybe it’s because they wanted me to return. This woman is most likely building a long list of repeat clients with her unhealthy recommendations. Let’s briefly summarize what happens when you undereat and overtrain.
You might lose weight at first. If you do, you get excited about it. But this downregulates your metabolism and disrupts many of your hormonal responses. Your hunger signals get thrown off, your body goes into stress mode, and you gain the weight back. When your body doesn’t think it’s going to get enough food, it is in constant stress mode. When it does get food, it wants to hold onto it, in fear that it won’t get it again. So you gain weight, often more than you started with. You saw the weight drop off initially though, so you try to eat even less and exercise even more. The same thing happens again, but worse. Suddenly, you’ve pushed your body into a position where you feel like you can only maintain your weight if you eat 1000 calories a day and keep up with chronic cardio, which takes hours out of your daily routine. Worse, you’re still having digestive issues, you get acne flare ups, and your periods are all out of whack. You have headaches all the time, you’re constantly thinking about food, and you’re stressed the F out. But those things are normal, right?
Common is not normal.
Do not be common.
I wish my 11-year-old self had realized that weight was not what I should have been worried about. I should’ve been worried about the real markers of health staring at me straight in the face – mood, energy, and digestion, for instance. At 11, I could’ve started taking control of my health and preventing all of those things. I could’ve cut the ridiculous amounts of highly processed, inflammatory foods out of my diet. I could’ve started to move my body. I could’ve slept more. I could have used better personal care products on my skin. I could’ve stopped depending on over-the-counter medications and antibiotics to bandaid my problems.
When I was home last weekend, I had my values questioned by others, as they tend to be when I visit other places. Someone said to me, “Well, that’s just an unrealistic way of life for most people. Not eating fast food? That’s just ridiculous. That’s no way to live.”
The person who said that to me was 26 years old.
What’s unrealistic to me, though, is living off of fast food. Running on a treadmill to “burn calories.” Being constipated for weeks at a time, dealing with acne, and worrying about weight gain. Feeling sluggish and lethargic all day long.
That is unrealistic to me, because now I know what it feels like to feel good. On my worst day now, I feel a million times better than how I felt every day before I changed my lifestyle a few years ago. On my worst day now, I feel a million times better than most people around me do, even when they don’t fully realize it. Unfortunately, people have become used to the symptoms, and that is their normal. It is unrealistic for me to ever go back to the way I lived 3 years ago, because at the time I just had no idea anything was wrong, and no idea how much better I could feel.
Do you know what’s freeing to me? Not being dependent on fast food. Not being dependent on food to cover up my emotions. Not having brain fog. Having energy during the day. Not being bloated all of the time, and actually having normal bowel moments. Knowing that I know exactly how to avoid all of the scary things other people told me I am destined for in the future. I know how to protect my brain and my body. I’m not scared of the future – I’m excited for it. I know how to live a long life. I understand that genes can be turned on or off – it is our lifestyle choices that do that. Maybe you have a gene that predisposes you to alzheimer’s, for example, but what if your diet made it so you never showed symptoms? What if infertility runs in your family, but a healthy diet and using nontoxic products made it so you had an easy, safe pregnancy? What if everyone in your family is overweight, but changing your lifestyle meant that you effortlessly maintained a healthy weight for the rest of your life?
These things can be a reality.
It’s important to me to say these things to my peers and those younger than me. Obviously, it is incredibly important for those older than me to hear this as well, but especially the younger generation. I hear it again and again from many different people. “I don’t have any issues now.” “Gluten doesn’t hurt my stomach.” “Everyone has period cramps.” “I can eat whatever I want and not gain weight.” “I’m fine on 4 hours of sleep.” “I don’t have to workout – I don’t gain weight.” “I workout so that I can eat.” “Running marathons gives me so much energy. I only get joint pain sometimes.” “I don’t have time to cook healthy right now, and I’m too lazy anyways.”
These statements break my heart.
We have control. We get to decide the destiny of our bodies and our brains. This is what biohacking is about. This is what a healthy lifestyle can do for you. This is what true education can do – reveal who and what you can trust. Again, you are not destined for weight gain, infertility, cognitive decline, or any other “symptom” of aging. You are destined for whatever you set yourself up to be. The way you live your lifestyle now is going to affect your life later, even if you can’t see it right this second. You can feel even better than you do right now, and you might not even know it! Do things now to set yourself up for future success, so that you don’t have to spend the rest of your life dealing with the symptoms as they come. Preventative medicine is key, and that all starts with healthy diet and lifestyle changes.
That is my message – young or old – you should care about your health right now. It matters. You matter. Don’t let anyone scare you into thinking that no matter what you do, your destiny is set. It’s not. Turn off the bad genes, turn on the good ones, and enjoy life in a whole new way.
If you’re ready to transform your health now, I really recommend you look into joining my 5-Week Program all about the Paleo diet for women. Class starts November 7th, and sign-ups are right now! This lifestyle completely transformed my health, and it has transformed so many others’ lives as well. That is why I decided to create this program – I want to show women exactly how they can realistically change their lifestyles to feel their best.
Whether you’re looking for improved energy, reaching a healthy weight, better digestion, clear skin, balanced hormones, or mental clarity, you can get there. It’s not about cutting calories or slaving away at the gym. It’s not about running to the doctor and getting a prescription or piling up on Tylenol every time something is off. It’s empowering to be in control of your own health. It’s empowering how much following a whole-foods diet, moving your body appropriately, resetting your body’s circadian rhythms, and balancing your hormones can transform your life. You only have one life to live, so don’t sit around and wait for problems to arise. You are never too young to become your best self.