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My 20s were a mess. I would exercise like crazy, only to blow it by chowing down on a ton of food I didn't really need. I was a roller coaster ride of calories, miles, followed by more calories and more miles. I would follow up a 10-mile run by downing an entire Dominos pizza or a pint of Haagen Dazs ice cream. Oh, and candy. LOTS of candy. You know about me and candy. That started at a very young age.
I was eating like a horse, but always trying to be “skinny.” In one sense, it worked. My weight was low, and I found solace in that number on the scale. But looking back on photos, every picture I see of myself during that time, I look haggard, puffy and not at peace.
In my 30s, it was more of the same, but add a budding career, an overnight shift and two babies. I knew it was bad. I was a physical wreck, always tortured about food and running. My mind and body were really strained by all this.
It was all part of a miserable cycle in my life that I detail in my book “Obsessed.”
The book recounts my awful journey with my diet and exercise and how much it mirrored the troubles that plagued my dear friend Diane Smith. She struggled with obesity. I didn’t. But we both were terribly unhealthy — physically and mentally. It all revolved around America’s terrible diet and our addictions to sugar, salt and saturated fat.
The “exercise” part of my life was always a payment for what I ate. I viewed it as a vehicle to staying slim. I loved running, but it was always more of a weight on me because of the pressure to be slim. Somewhere along the way, it stopped being fun.
I'm not proud of my lifestyle and health during my 20s and 30s especially, and I counsel young women to try to avoid these painful mistakes. I am really glad I was able to pull myself out of it, but it took many many years to really find my way to good health.
That journey with Diane forced me to rethink it all. Again and again. And that’s what I did throughout my 40s. I really could not keep up with the mounting pressures in my life, including marriage, kids, divorce and aging parents — all while trying to stay on the hamster wheel of running to stay slim.
I wrote before on this site about the break I took from running. For a while, running turned into walking. It was a welcome change and the beginning of a more mindful life. I’m back to running again, and I actually enjoy it now!
Mindfulness has been the difference. It has changed my relationship with food and exercise. I’ve all but given up sugar. I’m less reactive and more in the moment. It’s a real relationship — not a roller coaster ride.
I weigh somewhere between 140 and 150 pounds and I look as “good as it's going to get.” But honestly, I’m happy with it and feel beautiful. It’s been a long road and it feels good to be honest about my age, weight and changing looks. I’m 52 and weigh what I’m going to weigh. That’s it. Enough with the uphill battles. The sense of “calm” I feel about my weight and exercise makes me look and feel better — in my opinion (the one that matters!).
And now, in my 50s, I run up to five miles a day because it feels amazing! I exercise to feel good and eat to nourish myself. It’s finally about good health and me.
Don’t do what I did, ladies. Don’t torture yourself and be a slave to exercise. Find that path to health and happiness. Do it mindfully. Do it for yourself and no one else.