No easy solution.

36.5% and $147 billion.  That is the obesity rate in the United States and the financial burden in healthcare costs due to all the chronic conditions related to obesity (1).

Ironically, the diet food industry and health club industry make $20 billion and $26 billion a year in revenue, respectively (2,3). The dietary supplement industry is also quite lucrative, with $32 billion in annual revenue (4).

Obviously, “just do it”, “drink this shake”, “pop this pill” are not working when more than 1/3 of the population continues to be obese. Instilling the mentality that an individual can achieve the goal of a healthy weight if he/she wants it badly enough places a great deal of responsibility on the individual to address a complex health issue that is made all the more difficult because of the stigma that follows it.

I sometimes question why I decided to take a more difficult path when the fitness industry I have been a part of for nearly a decade is already full of “experts” who have proven Googling skills rather than a research-based graduate degree. But I have to remember that this isn’t about working towards rock hard abs or a bikini-ready body by June, but rather finding real solutions to an epidemic that is the second leading cause of PREVENTABLE death in the U.S. after tobacco use (1).

We want a quick fix, and it isn’t a quick fix. Yet life demands so much from us each day and to be honest, it really is easier to just order a pizza.

References:

  1. Adult Obesity Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html. Updated September 1, 2016. Accessed April 23, 2017.
  2. ABC News Staff. 100 Million Dieters: $20 Billion – The Weight Loss Industry By the Numbers. ABCNews. May 8, 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/100-million-dieters-20-billion-weight-loss-industry/story?id=16297197. Accessed April 23, 2017.
  3. Health Club Industry Overview. International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association Website. http://www.ihrsa.org/about-the-industry. Updated June 30, 2016. Accessed April 23, 2017.
  4. Lariviere J. Nutritional Supplements Flexing Muscle As Growth Industry. Forbes Magazine. https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidlariviere/2013/04/18/nutritional-supplements-flexing-their-muscles-as-growth-industry/#3bf5e7c08845. Accessed April 23, 2017.
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The 21 Day Fix. Revisited.

The concept of “clean eating” was first introduced to me several years ago by a personal trainer I worked with in North Carolina.  At the time I was teaching my fair share of group fitness classes, specifically Les Mills Bodypump and Bodyflow, but in addition to that I was attending Bodyattack and RPM classes, with a few Bodyjam and Bodycombat classes here and there, which are all pretty intense cardio formats also offered by Les Mills.

It was common practice for me to take a class, teach a class, then head straight to the nearby Harris Teeter, where I’d purchase a full slab of ribs and a loaf of cornbread.  Without a healthy breakfast to head off my morning workouts, my famished self would devour the whole entire thing, all in one sitting.  I would eat again in the evening sometime, though that meal was often something I’d find leftover in the fridge, but without fail, I’d have an alcoholic beverage of some sort to accompany my dinner.  For the longest time I liked to mix a bit of diet Sprite with some red mine, what my friends like to call the “wine spritzer”.  Of course one was never enough, and I deemed multiple pourings okay since I had worked out so hard that day.

I continued this way for many months because I didn’t know any better.  I was by no means overweight, but I wanted to look as trim and fit as some of my fellow instructor friends who were lifelong athletes.  I convinced myself the only way to do this was to jump on the bandwagon and see the personal trainer that all the instructors trained with.  He and I already had a professional relationship established because I had done a number of photography assignments for him, so it was a win-win arrangement for both of us.  I take his photos, he gives me free training sessions.

Wouldn’t you know it, the first thing he told me was to hold off on weighing myself – for the next month.  He also said to start taking vitamins regularly.  And then he had me sign up for an online calorie counting website (at the time it was Livestrong.com, though now there are many out there that are just as good) and told me to buy this book:  The Clean Eating Diet by Tosca Reno.

For the first week I was overwhelmed, and of course, I continued with my habits and ate poorly.  One night, around 11 p.m., I received a text message from my personal trainer which simply said:  “Kentucky Fried Chicken?  Are you serious?”  Yes, that’s what I had for dinner.  In fact, I was so hungry that I snarfed it down, then headed to Bonefish Grill to visit my girlfriend who tended bar there, and chitchatted with her while enjoying a vodka martini.

The next morning I likely dragged myself to the gym to take an RPM class, followed by Bodyflow, which I was on the schedule to teach.  But in hindsight I can count many, many times in which I taught that class feeling very much under the weather.

I finally decided to clean up the diet, and though I didn’t lose actual weight, my body fat percentage went down and people started to notice that I looked “different”.  They weren’t sure why, but I just did.  So, there’s definitely something to be said about this “clean eating” shenanigans after all.

Since that time I’ve done a number of different things to play around with my poor eating habits (because admittedly, I tend to revert back to the full slab of ribs and cornbread, sometimes).  My cousin, who owns a yoga studio, often does a 21 day cleanse in which we give up six known inflammatory foods:  wheat, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and meat.  Aside from the massive headaches the first couple of days, it was a great experience, though I don’t necessarily recommend this if the workouts are intense.  I was training for my third marathon at the time, and had one scary moment after a 12 mile training run that involved seeing stars and complete blackness for a moment, at which time it suddenly dawned on me that while being very thin was great and I had an abundance of energy, my thinning hair and protruding collarbones were probably an indication that I wasn’t eating enough.

Which brings me to the whole concept of eating clean but at the same time eating to fuel the body.  That’s when I finally took off the blinders and removed all the negative thoughts in my head and decided to jump on the Beachbody bandwagon.  Everybody was doing it, so what was all the fuss about?

First I have to say that Shakeology, as much as I frowned upon it as an expensive gimmick, is AMAZING.  I used to go through great lengths to find dense nutrition, and there are many products out there that fulfill this need.  However, I am lazy about some things.  If it’s not convenient, I simply don’t feel like tackling it.  In one serving of Shakeology, everything is there.  I no longer need to take vitamin supplements, not that I ever did on a consistent basis.  But my ongoing issue with thinning hair?  Gone.  That is the one biggest indication that I was finally doing something nutritionally correct for myself.  I can see all the baby hairs growing back in, which made my hair very poofy once again, like back in my college days, before kids and breastfeeding and over the top workouts.

Shakeology:  Your daily dose of dense nutrition.

And then I decided to try the 21 Day Fix.  When the colorful little boxes arrived, I laughed.  Partly because they were so little and looked like ridiculous little toys, and partly because I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to feel satiated with so little food.  The amount, I soon realized, was enough.  But when I made the effort to follow the 21 Day Fix guidelines and eat the recommended foods, it was effortless and easy.  I was energized and never felt deprived.

So as we kick off another month, I’m starting another round of the 21 Day Fix.  Next week I have an order of the Beachbody Performance line coming in, to add some much needed oomph to my full teaching schedule, and just in time as we start to dive in to the double digits of marathon training.  I also ordered the much anticipated Fixate Cookbook, created by the 21 Day Fix’s mastermind Autumn Calabrese.  I’ve followed many of her recipes and admittedly I’m not a very good indicator of what is considered “yummy” since I will eat just about anything, especially when I’m hangry hungry.  But everything I’ve made thus far has gotten an overwhelming thumbs up from the hubby and the kiddos, so I’m excited to try more recipes.

I try to stay away from the aesthetics of it all and instead try to focus more on how I feel throughout the day, whether it’s while teaching or running, or even when I first wake up in the morning, and changes in the diet have definitely made the biggest impact, physically and mentally.  While the clothes start to fit differently, ultimately when I’m feeling good in my head, everything else falls into place.  Next week will be like Christmas in August.