“Have you lost weight?!” “What diet are you on?” “Did you see results right away?” “How long are you going to stay Paleo?” “How many days a week are you working out?” “How many hours do you spend in the gym?” “No, really… how much weight have you lost?!”
Anyone who has endeavored on a new diet or exercise regimen has inevitably been asked one, if not all of the questions above. Some of you might find them motivating. Some of you might find them endearing. If you’re anything like me, you find them kind of… irritating. I have been asked all of these questions by well-intentioned people many times over in the past year and found myself biting my tongue while searching for a socially-appropriate way to tell them off every single time. Let me explain. Each of these questions assumes that I have changed my lifestyle and diet because I want to look like the women on the cover of every “Women’s Interest” magazine at Barnes & Noble. These questions assume that I want to look good for my boyfriend, that I’m terrified of carbohydrates, that I’m not confident enough to wear a swimsuit, that I don’t want to be strong, that I just want to be skinny, and that I care only enough about my health to diet for a few weeks before binging on a bag of Cheetos and Hershey’s candy bars once my diet is “over.”
These questions ignore the fact that I want to be healthy today, tomorrow, and ten years from now. That I want to prepare meals for my family that have strong nutritional value and nothing from a factory. They ignore that I am proud of the callouses on my hands, because they show the world that I can do handful of kips and dead-lift 90 kilos. People who ask these questions assume that I eat Paleo because it’s “low-carb” and “trendy” something that “all CrossFitters do.” They think I run because it’s an efficient cardio method that can be done on the treadmill any day of the week. These people become confused when I show up at the register with issues of Men’s Fitness, Competitor, WOD, and Vogue magazines (they actually probably just assume I’m a fit and fashionable lesbian).
Here’s the truth:
I run because it’s therapeutic. In my overly social life, running is the only opportunity I have to put my phone on airplane mode, listen to some great tunes, and zone out on life. It’s 30-40 minutes of uninterrupted therapy – without one or two long, slow runs every week, I would be an emotional train wreck (seriously… if you knew me before I took up marathoning, you’d know how true this statement is).
I practice CrossFit because it makes me strong. Because I like seeing definition in my arms, hamstrings, and abs. Because it’s a social sport with an element of competition between the class and myself. Because, in 5 months, I have gained 5 pounds of lean muscle mass. Because it’s reshaped my body and my attitude toward fitness while improving my marathon pace by almost two minutes per mile. And… because the dudes are almost always good looking.
I eat Paleo because my idea of health includes a future in which I won’t suffer from obesity, diabetes, or autoimmune disorders. In the past year, the Paleo diet has improved my health in ways that go beyond looking good in a bikini – my hormone levels have stabilized, my skin is clear, I have uncovered food allergies I didn’t know I had, I no longer have chronic migraines, I sleep well, I’m less moody, and I recover from even the most difficult workouts within 24 hours.
This month, Women’s Health Magazine features a cover story called the “8-Hour Diet!” Shape magazine’s cover story is called “Your Dream Body!” and includes a story about cover girl Kendra, who was a Playboy Playmate for a number of years. These magazines promise quick results fueled by “low-carb” or “low-fat” diets that last for a handful of weeks and are accompanied by fitness routines that end just in time for you to pick up the next issue. Here’s what I propose: let’s cut out the short-term diets and temporary fitness routines and take up a lifestyle that focuses on long-term health benefits. Teach your kids what a health lunch looks like. Walk to the grocery store to pick up what you need today. Take a jog to the gym or park a couple of blocks away instead of looking for “TV parking.” Embrace the ideal of a healthy, happy woman who doesn’t care what the scale says – only that she continues to PR in her foot races and increase weight at the gym. Who values the importance of eating seasonally and locally and purchasing only products that she can pronounce or that would have been recognized as “food” 100 years ago. Who (from time-to-time) orders an 18-oz bone-in rib eye and bottle of Bordeaux with plans to finish off both by herself. My lifestyle isn’t weird… the cover of magazines are weird. I haven’t lost weight. I’m not on a diet. I workout to improve my health and performance at work, at home, and on the road. Either get on board, or leave me alone.