“Food is the most intimate thing you can buy…Unlike clothes and shoes that dress the outside, food goes into your body and builds who you become.”
— Ani Phyo
I love this quote. It is the essence of what I mean when I talk about eating to flourish. Think about it and let it sink in. Making decisions about your health takes on a whole new meaning when you know what you want to do with your life and who you want to be, doesn’t it?
Let’s talk about diet, exercise, and weight for a moment. I’ve studied nutrition, different diets, and medical studies for 45 years. And, I’ve been asked the how-to’s of weight loss many times. Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned over the last 15 years or so. It’s clear that maintaining a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or under is best. Eating low-glycemic foods is also very important, because it keeps your blood sugar from spiking. Rapid changes in blood sugar levels stimulate cravings, which leads to weight gain, and increase the likelihood of systemic inflammation. This in turn can lead to all kinds of chronic degenerative diseases, including type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Finally, it’s almost impossible to stay trim without exercising. Luckily, a little exercise goes a long way.
No one can refute these facts. But ultimately, reaching and maintaining healthy body composition and vibrant health through the right food choices happens in both your mind and body. Trust me—merely sticking to the latest fad diet or reaching for the perfect BMI won’t bring about the transformation. It is, indeed, personal.
What you eat—and when—affects your emotions and your spirit. Of course there are often emotional reasons behind weight gain (or becoming too thin). Ignoring the emotional component of weight gain (or loss) can sabotage you when you’re in the midst of the diet wars. Some people eat because they’re bored, sad, or lonely. And you may be one of them. Women often drown their sorrows in a bowl of ice cream after a break up. We’ve all done it! It feels good for a few minutes. But it really doesn’t support the person you ultimately want to be—a happy, whole individual with a satisfying life.
I know many women who use food as a reward, too. You’ve all heard someone say: “When I finish this project, I’ll treat myself to a pizza.” (Or whatever). Now that you’ve read Ani Phyo’s quote, is this how you want to reward yourself? And is it really a treat?
I’m not saying you should never have pizza or ice cream, etc. Every once in a while, I crave garlic mashed potatoes or gooey chocolate brownies and I go for it! Without the guilt. That’s because I’m a big proponent of the 80/20 rule (or, realistically, the 90/10 rule). I also try to indulge with high quality choices. It’s OK to give into cravings sometimes. What’s important is you’re still choosing a better quality of life.
A good strategy is to find a healthier substitute. For example, I use Stevia in place of white sugar; savor a square of organic dark chocolate instead of gulping down a pile of stale, leftover Halloween candy; or eat a thin crust pizza with lots of veggies instead of a deep dish pizza with a thick crust.
One of the reasons I chose to share this quote is that you start to think about baring your body in a bathing suit at this time of year. If you live in a climate with a cold winter, it’s quite common to be drawn to comfort foods during the dark, cold days only to find in April that you’ve gained 10-15 pounds. I want you to have a reason to lose weight that goes beyond the superficial drive to look good in a bathing suit.
If you’re looking for a way to put Ani Phyo’s philosophy into practice, don’t bother looking at supermodels for inspiration. Genetically, most women will never look like one—and it would be unhealthy for them to try. It’s not about having a perfect body. (Whatever that is!) It’s about having the perfect body for you, specifically what you want to be able to do with your body.
Consider the grandmother who easily gets up from the floor after playing with her grandchildren for hours. Is this who you want to be? Perhaps it’s a senior executive who has stamina to travel, work long hours, and truly thrive in a career she loves? Or maybe it’s a young, full-time mom who wants to have lots of energy? Or a college student who doesn’t want to put on that “freshmen 15” because it will mean a slip in her self-confidence?
One of the reasons that I stay healthy and fit is my passion for Argentine Tango. I plan to dance well into my 90’s.
In honor of Women’s History Month, I encourage you to eat in a way that supports the happy, dynamic, sensual, intelligent, fun, playful, spiritual, successful, studious, serious, organized, and/or joyous woman inside you!
P.S. Once you find your inspiration, then check out my chapters on diet and nutrition in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and the Wisdom of Menopause for more how-to’s. Chapter 17 “Eat to Flourish” in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom should be particularly helpful to you. There are also many articles on www.drnorthrup.com, that give specific instructions for conquering weight gain, especially at midlife.
This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. All material in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.
© Christiane Northrup, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Christiane Northrup, M.D., a board-certified ob/gyn, is a visionary pioneer, beloved authority in women’s health and wellness, and the author of the ground breaking New York Times bestsellers Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause. Following a 25-year career in both academic medicine and private practice, Dr. Northrup devotes her time to helping women truly flourish. Follow Dr. Christiane Northrup on Facebook, Twitter, at www.drnorthrup.com, and by listening to her weekly Hay House Internet radio show Flourish!