One of the things about being a young health author—say, a diet author in your twenties—is that a certain number of people will always have the “out” of saying “Oh, it’s just because you’re young that this works for you.” Whatever it is you happen to be suggesting, skeptics can dismiss it based on the idea that, for someone your age, anything would work.
My 1994 book Bodyfueling (and its predecessor, a basic healthy-eating workshop that I ultimately delivered to about 3,000 people) developed a fairly decent following for a first-time author with no agent who wasn’t, in fact, selling fast weight loss, thin thighs, six-pack abs, or all the steak you could eat. However, “Wait till you’re 40,” was a retort I heard from more than a few cynics.
Whether they were referring to my size 4 skirts, my nicely defined lats, or my ability to eat whatever I wanted (part of the trick was, I only wanted healthy food), a lot of people were convinced I would fall apart after the big 4-0. Like they expected to, or had. Like everyone did, they figured. Sometimes it was almost smug. “You’ll see,” they seemed to say. No, wait—they did say.
I wonder where some of those folks are 20+ years later. I wonder if they’d like to check me out and see if they were right. I wouldn’t mind. I understand their wariness. I look at twentysomethings that way now, too. The way they can stay up all night drinking, sleep in their makeup, and still the next morning look—well, twentysomething.
But some things don’t have to change for the worst—not to the degree people expect, anyway—and it’s taken me more than two decades to prove it.
Here’s the thing. The goals Bodyfueling intended to accomplish never were limited by age. They were never limited to the kinds of things that are only possible as a twentysomething (and yes, there are those things).
Bodyfueling was intended to make you an aware, educated, savvy consumer able to make sense of new claims and see through fads and myopic, diversionary, food-related media obsessions.
It was intended to give you a perspective on caring for your body and health that was empowered, inspired, adult, and rooted in a deeper motivation.
And it was intended to give you the best information we had at the time about what constitutes a healthy diet—so that, spurred by the deep motivation you’d tapped, you could freely make the very best choices.
Some of the “best practices” have changed. “The best choices” are in many areas a moving target, as science learns more and more about food, exercise, and our bodies. We do know much more now than we did 20+ years ago. (That’s one reason I think I was fitter and healthier in my 30s than my 20s, and more remarkably, I’ve looked my best and been even healthier still in my 40s than in my 20s. And probably why 42-year-old Gwyneth Paltrow was recently quoted in Women’s Health as saying,”I feel way more comfortable in a bathing suit now than I did 20 years ago.”) I mean, most of us didn’t do HIIT in the 1990s. 😉
On certain “what to do” points, I freely admit the 1994 Bodyfueling can no longer be considered accurate or ideal (which is why I’m rewriting it, and I’ll be using the blog to update on some of those topics as well).
But many basics remain the same. More importantly, so does the ability to obtain and discern the best information—to find it, understand it, and use it. And use it happily.
That’s what Bodyfueling was really about. And still is.
New information will keep emerging. It’s what you DO with it that matters. Bodyfueling provided a thoughtful, compelling and unique way of putting you in charge of that. And still can.
The last 20+ years hasn’t done much for most people in terms of inspiring them to apply health and fitness. The way it’s typically communicated, health and fitness information has only confused many people that much more. That’s got to change. For you, for your family, and for the world.
It’s more important than ever to care for your body like it’s precious. Knowing what to do is vital; being inspired to do it is paramount. We’re living longer, and we ought to live those extra years well.
Moreover, we have work to do. The world needs us. We need our bodies and health to serve our lives and the lives of others. We need our bodies and health to express our deepest commitments to the planet. It goes so far beyond the high school reunion, bikini season and new jeans.
That’s what made Bodyfueling different from other approaches. It was never a diet, a plan, or a program. It was never meant to be about skinny or fat, high carb or low carb, protein or oils—or any one thing. It’s not about looking like a model or bodybuilder; it’s not about the latest single magic food or nutrient, or “thinking thin,” or cheerleading yourself into a frenzy.
It’s just this: you’re empowered, motivated, caring and informed. You actually have clarity. You’re open to what’s new, but you can separate the wheat from the chaff (so to speak). You know what to keep and what to shrug off. You can prioritize. You grasp nuances. You can see complexity, and can balance a variety of factors. You don’t get stuck on one isolated piece of information. You can draw from many sources and assemble the best of everything we currently know—and apply it every day, gladly, easily.
And yes—you get to look good. Maybe not like a model (unless you happen to already have the goods to be one!)—but the best you’re going to look given what you’ve been given, the best possible you. And you get to feel good. There’s no better you to be had than by doing the essential healthy things with your food, your exercise, and your nutrients.
It’s been 21 years since BodyFueling was published. As a slightly cocky but fundamentally earnest twentysomething, I was eager to share what I’d learned on my own journey to that point, and what it did for me and others. Since then, much new information has come to light, which I’ve integrated and applied to my evolving and expanding self-care practices.
And, as happens with maturity, I’ve also mellowed. So even though in some ways I have evolved to be even more rigorous about what I choose and use, paradoxically I’m more relaxed about it too. I am less black-and-white. I have more depth, more compassion, more wisdom and understanding. More humility.
Meaning: I choose even more carefully, but with less attitude.
So, a lot has changed in the nutrition landscape, but what hasn’t changed is the need to see all this in a certain way—a way that works, that’s sustainable, and that is joyful and peaceful. A way that’s full of choice—and yet, in another paradox, NO choice, in the sense that you really wouldn’t choose any other way than what you know is best. You just wouldn’t.
Spiritual teacher and writer Craig Hamilton calls this “choicelessness.” Technically you have a choice; you are free to do anything you want. But all you really want is to do what you know in your heart, mind and body is best, highest and most full of integrity—what works. You are so deeply motivated, so inspired, so clear, you simply wouldn’t do anything else. Whether it’s for yourself, others, or the planet.
When it comes to food (and everything else I put in and do to and with my body), I still have that. I still experience that. All these years later, I still have a choice—and yet am choiceless—about doing the very best things for my body that we currently know to do (and while I’m at it, for the planet too). More than ever.
The diet world loves a good “before and after.” Six months later and she kept it off! One year later and she’s still a size six! Two years later and she’s still exercising!
How about 20+ years later?
Yes, I reached 40—and passed it. I’m still darn close to the same size (although like many women my age, I notice a slightly different distribution of the material these days!). I’m still healthy and energetic, and by most accounts I still don’t look nearly my age. I’m still strong and agile. I’m still about the best I can be. I daresay my 40s have reflected a health and fitness many my age and younger would relish.
But the best part? I still adore food with gusto and enthusiasm. I still know what I’m doing. I’m still able to deftly sort through the never-ending onslaught of claims and news and research—so my choices get better and better. I don’t suffer, I don’t struggle, I don’t worry, and I’m not confused. As you might have noticed, that’s something of a feat in our food culture.
I’m a regular person. I have problems and issues like everyone does. Just not with this. And that makes me a bit unusual. There’s something I can see and am able to do with ease that other people would like to—need to—have. And I’ve been able to sustain it.
So here I am (again) to share it—from an older, wiser vantage point, armed with more clarity than ever about what it is that works. With more passion and compassion than ever. And thanks to my own study and development, with even better words for the spiritual and mental side of what will move you into action—an aspect that I saw so clearly in the 1990s and emphasized then, but now understand even more deeply. And emphasize more.
I’m going to say it again, but even better, from a new century, at a time when we need the message more than ever. And I’m going to add everything I’ve learned in the last two decades—about nutrition and about choice—that can enhance its usefulness. Because there really is a lot of good stuff out there, rising above the sea of confusing garbage. And I’m going to do everything I can to support that stuff and the people who put it out.
And I’m doing this at an age when no one any longer can shrug, “well, it’s just because you’re young.” I mean, what are you going to say now? “Wait till you’re 65?”
Whether you’re 20, 40 or 60, you can care for your body with wisdom, choice and joy. Knowing what to do—and doing it. Gladly. I’m happy to join in on demonstrating how.