A Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body

It's been a LONG time since I've written about my weight struggle. That's because there hasn't been much of a fight to report. For a while there I surrendered to my impulses for whatever I craved. Plus I wasn't getting up early to exercise (and if exercise doesn't happen in the morning, forget it). The result? No surprise. The skinny jeans are back on the shelf and I reach for stuff with elastic waists. You have no idea how hard it is to admit that.

It would be easy to blame the dark mid-winter, lack of Vitamin D, stress at work or family demands. But really, there are no excuses. I eat as a reward and as a punishment. I know what I need to do but I sabotage my efforts gladly for the rush of immediate gratification. That's the life of a food addict.

My path to this place was part Nature: While everyone else in my family got the skinny genes (no pun intended, haha), my grandmother's pudginess skipped a generation and landed squarely on my belly.

And part Nurture: It didn't help that my stick thin Mom constantly asked me if I wanted her "help" to lose weight. "Are you going to eat that?" is a refrain that haunts me like the Jaws theme does an ocean swimmer.

But frankly today it doesn't wash because I am A GROWN-UP! A grown up who needs constant reminding that I have the responsibility to make good choices. I eschew (love that word. Notice it has 'chew' in it) I es-CHEW diets. Been there, done that a million times a la Oprah. The high of initial success is inevitably followed by the depression of defeat. Sorry but my self-esteem just says no!

It was my son who got me back on track again. He asked me (yes, I have a teenager who actually wants to know what I think! It's a miracle!) what ideas I had to help him study for the SATs. Without thinking I told him to start exercising regularly. I recited all the brain benefits of exercise (scientifically proven, thank you very much) and how years ago, I ran three miles a day while I was studying for my licensing boards. It helped so much. He said thanks and immediately started running as soon as he got home from school.

Well, gee whiz. As a mom, how do you think I felt giving out advice I wasn't following myself? Answer: Like a bit of a jerk.

So I started getting on the treadmill again. Then I collected some yoga DVDs from the library and got reconnected with my inner core. I take it really easy and mix it up a lot. Sometimes 15 minutes, usually 20 or 30, once in a while an hour. Sometimes power walking, sometimes yoga, or weight training. The effort has yet to show on my body, but in my spirit the exercise made a difference right away. I just feel better.

On the eating side of the equation I re-read some of my own weight loss journey posts from this blog. There's some good sh*#t in here! Then I read an article about how snacking in America had gotten completely out of hand. We're eating constantly!

Plus I bought Michael Pollan's Food Rules, An Eater's Manual. Tiny, just 139 pages, it's not a diet, just common sense. All I want to do is eat three meals a day (Rule #55), no seconds (Rule #53) and (Rule #11) limit snacking to food that wasn't advertised on television. Good-bye Cheez-Its, hello Apple!

I also really like Rule #2, "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize." They aren't concrete rules, none of them are. My great-grandmother would not recognize yogurt but she'd appreciate Rule #14, "Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature."

My goal is a sound, healthy mind (and self-esteem) in a sound, healthy body. I'm in my mid-fifties so will I ever be a size 6? No, and it's about time to stop that struggle. In fact I have no idea if my body will change all that much on the outside, as I get back to healthier eating and exercising basics. I just want to be the healthiest 55 year old I can be with the body nature gave me. But let's be real: Would I mind if there is a side benefit of a slimmer profile? Uh, I don't think so!

Bottom line: Today I'm feeling good about my choices and that's food for my self-esteem :-)

Photo courtesy of nettsu via Flickr


  • Good post Dr. Aletta!
    I’ve battled my weight all of my life. Often times, I’ve looked and FELT awesome. Other times, not so much.
    The secret isn’t some sort of “diet plan” or secret pill or blood type, it’s having disipline and drive to live a lifestyle. If a person is consistent with excercise and eating properly, then there won’t be a problem.

  • Hi, Rob!
    Consistency is so key which is why I sometimes tell myself “Just exercise 15 minutes, that’s all” which is better then not doing it at all.
    P.S. Love the look of you blog.

  • Oh…Thanks Dr. Aletta! Just gave it a makeover for my “Blogiversary”….been writing for a year now!

  • SD

    Dr Aletta,
    I loved your article.
    I too eat for reward and punishment. If I have lost weight I feel like I should reward myself with something like Ice Cream or chips. If I gain weight I get mad and say I am already gaining weight so why not eat anyway.
    I do exercise and I use the 15 minute timing as well and I have to say that probably 95% of the time I will do more but there have been a few times when I left after the 15 minutes.
    Food is always there for comfort. It doesn’t talk back (well kind of on the scale)or give advice or judge you. It just is.

  • Linda Miola Furrier

    Does this whole healthy eating, healthy weight thing hold water? Are you happy? Are you generally unstressed? Then perhaps you ARE healthy. I’ve known so many people who pay close attention to healthy eating & exercise their whole lives, then get diagnosed with disease … or die early with heart attacks. If the stress of THINKING about what you eat and how much you exercise OVERRIDES the benefit … you’ve may be taking a step back? Don’t worry, be happy. PS I think you look great for 55.

  • SD, Yup. Food isn’t good or bad; it just is. I like that! Food is a gift. Once in a while I just need to remember not to abuse it. And if I do, not to make too big a deal out of it. Basically it evens out.

  • Yes! That’s exactly the point. Stressing over eating is nuts and way counter-productive. I know some people like you describe as well but I know more who are like me, striving to be fitter in a world that wants me to eat Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast and be as skinny as Eva Longoria.
    To answer your questions: Yes, I think healthy eating, healthy weight does hold water. The trick is to be content that my healthy weight these days is different from, say, 20 years ago. Yes, I am happy! I have a blessed life. And as a survivor of multiple chronic illness, I know how lucky I am. Yes, taking a step back from obsessing about food, especially if it gets in the way of that happiness is excellent advice. I’m not completely nutty, just a little.
    P.S. Thank you for the sweet complement. I did get some good genes from my parents! :-)

  • Nice! Congratulations!

  • It’s been quite a while since I read your posts. They’re so helpful. Thanks for sharing them.
    It’s been also a while since I wanted to say something about food used as an escape goat.
    I suffered from bulimia for several years. Some periods were utterly marked with intense vomiting.
    Mi history it’s a mix of emotional abandonment, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, wrong conclusions and pressure on looks.
    My healing journey started 3 years ago when I decided I wanted a better life. “Getting better bit by bit” a book for Survival Kit for Sufferers of Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorders was the starting point.
    “Feeling good” by David Burns, also made a huge difference on my thoughts processes and conclusions, which as dumb as they may seem, were so real for me.
    I went through therapy as well. Giving names to my pains alleviated me.
    “Healing the child within” made me realize whom I was and what kind of parent I was for me now as an adult.
    It’ll be a lie to say my obsessive compulsive thoughts disappear from dusk till dawn. Whenever I loose track, they come back. The difference is now I have the tools to identify them and cut them before the outgrow me.
    Last but not least, love for myself as I’m, acceptance of who I’m, was the top ingredient. Whenever I forget to give love to myself, I use food to fill in the gaps. Somewhere, in the internet I read about an exercise which unleashed emotions. It’s way easier to feel sympathy and compassion for a puppy than for ourselves. The trick was to imagine oneself as a puppy asking for shelter on a cold day. It worked for me!.
    Food choices and exercising also helped. I had to reeducate myself.
    I don’t suffer anymore from binge eating and compensatory behaviors. I can’t say I’ll never suffer anymore from it, but I can now assess where I’m, what I’m lacking of and what I need to do. It does makes a difference.
    Everything person is unique. There’s not a fit all solution. Nonetheless, I share my experience as reading from other experiences helped me get throughout: they contributed to “open my eyes”. I’m really thankful for that.
    With love,

  • “I eat as a reward and as a punishment” – Great line here doc. Actually the whole entry is outstanding. Honestly, as I continue reading, it keeps more interesting and inspiring. Thanks doc.

  • Just wanted to acknowledge this sincere effort on your part to discuss some important health care aspects.Such a good and informative blog..Thanks for sharing!I’m looking forward to read more on your site.


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