I have struggled with body image since age 10. I have tried an elaborate range of weight control techniques including fat free, low carb, juice cleanses, Keto, Paleo, counting macros, food journals and good old-fashioned starvation.
By my mid-30’s, I had learned to bury my head in the sand when I stepped on the scale, and rationalize whatever number came up with excuses such as water weight, ‘big boned,” scale is broken, etc. I was at a weight which was considered unhealthy by BMI and most medical standards, despite exercising regularly and being hungry and tired often.
My wake-up call came during a trip to Africa, where I was drinking heavily, eating starchy foods and feeling badly about myself every time I looked at a photo. My face was bloated and my clothes barely fit. The trip through Tanzania and Zanzibar was thrilling and magical, however I spent many hours sucking in my stomach, doing half hearted workouts in the hot sticky weather and berating myself mentally for how chubby I felt I had become.
I returned home with a new resolution to lose weight and met with a local trainer. I was so ready for change and desperate for help that I handed over my credit card and laced up my sneakers that day.
Her program was rigorous and expensive. I found out later that it was designed for someone planning to enter a “bikini model” competition (which is not a goal on my bucket list). I exercised for two hours daily in the gym, lifting weights and slogging through cardio machine workouts. I was given a detailed plan that restricted calories to 1500 per day, composed of a specific ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrates (i.e. macros). Alcohol and sugar were forbidden.
I was so exhausted and starving that I had to come home for naps in the afternoon and was in bed by 8 PM most nights. My career and social life suffered. The weight peeled off in the first few months, but I was miserable. I became obsessive, anxious and stressed about “following the program.”
After a few months with the trainer, I traveled to Greece for my cousin’s wedding and loved the laid-back lifestyle. Meals are the focal point of the day, and no one is ever in a rush. My “meal plan” included healthy fresh food such as fish, homemade bread, local fruit and vegetables, yogurt and a little wine. There was a bakery across the street from my Airbnb, and I began most mornings with an iced espresso and a giant Greek pastry.