By: Louise Green
Photo Credit: Vairdy Photography
In her new book, Big Fit Girl (in stores March 2017), Louise Green tells an inspiring account of how plus-size women can become fit, chock-full of stories from real Big Fit Girls who’ve taken control of their health and their lives. In it, Louise shatters the negative myths about body size and fitness and offers practical, achievable tips that empower women to embrace their bodies and unleash their athletic potential.
I became serious about my health in my late twenties when I first took up running. It was several years later, however, that I started to work toward a better relationship with food. I thought I was doing a good job; now I realize I was in a chronic cycle of dieting, and it was harming rather than helping my body.
As I reached my thirties I started to consider my family history. My grandmother died of a stroke in her early fifties, as did two of her siblings. My dad was diagnosed with high blood pressure before he was forty. He went to the doctor for severe chronic headaches, and his blood pressure was so high in his first reading that his doctor immediately sent him to the emergency room. Through my genetics, I know I am susceptible to certain health conditions; my dad jokes that our family is cursed. But it’s not a joke; I take these predispositions seriously so I can enjoy my life with my husband and son for as long as I can.
Regular exercise helped me learn to view food not as the enemy but as something that could propel me further into athletic success. I started eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods to protect myself from my health predispositions; sometimes I do this well and sometimes not. But I no longer view food as “ good” or “ bad.” I am a work in progress. I no longer deprive myself for the sake of attaining some ideal body shape, but rather eat healthfully to live longer and better.
Today I enjoy all foods in moderation—salads, grains, meats, and sometimes pizza and ice cream—and in this way, I am able to achieve a healthy, vibrant balance rather than constant restricting and compensating by eating foods that made me feel unwell.
If you relate to my story, ask yourself whether your relationship with food needs to be improved. The truth is, the primary purpose of eating food is survival. As you become more active, your body will demand more nutrient-dense food and you will likely crave healthy foods. Exercise can make you really hungry; honour that and give your body what it needs.
Changing the way you view food is a noble but difficult battle. But it becomes easier with every change you make. Like me, you may be fighting habits that have been ingrained in you by childhood experiences and by our culture. In our adult lives, we are told to restrict calories but at the same time are bombarded with temptation of food all around us. Food manufacturers want us to become hooked on their cheezies and mini-muffins. It is up to you to break from those habits and pay attention to what your body wants and needs to be the best athlete you can.
•Smash the scale. I stopped using a scale as a measure of my health and now listen to and look at other cues from my body.
•Focus on the “why” rather than the “what.”I pay attention to why I eat rather than what I eat.
•Eat mindfully. I continue to work on eating only when I am hungry. I practice staying connected to my body by being present at meal times, ensuring I have few distractions.
•Find your motivation. When my son was born, I became extra motivated because not only do I want to be here for him as long as I can but I also want to model a healthy lifestyle for him.
•Abandon restrictive eating and adopt an athlete’s habit of consuming abundant, healthy, performance-enhancing nutrition. I now focus on eating healthfully for life and athletic performance. This has been the biggest shift for me, and it has helped me pay attention to what my body needs and wants.
•Reduce refined sugars. This is a personal choice for me because I need to manage my blood sugar levels, and because I feel crazy around sugar. I have the most energy for my busy life when I limit my intake of refined sugars to an occasional treat.
•Practice body love. I practice body love often by overriding any negative inner dialogue and giving my body what it needs: exercise, sleep, quiet time, and good nutrition. When I love my body, I want the best for it and that translates into healthy practices with both food and exercise.
•If you decide to work with a dietician or nutritionist interview them to see if they work from a weight-neutral approach. Through nutrition, I pursue my goals of elevating my athleticism and health, and I have surrounded myself with professionals who understand this approach.
None of this is about policing your food; it’s about being your healthiest, most athletic self and finding freedom from being controlled by food and the negative emotional power it may carry. Every body deserves peace and love around food, but it will take some work to get there! Are you ready?
Big Fit Girl: Embrace the Body You Have, by Louise Green and Jess Weiner, Paperback available March 18, 2017 for $22.68 on Amazon.ca