March 13, 2014

The Down & Dirty: Part 1

I don’t often write personal things here. I’ve stuck mostly to science-y things like the chemistry of fats and oils, how the digestive system works, a couple of recipes, and poking fun at ridiculous modern food labels. I’ve peppered a couple of posts with just a few personal details. For example, if you’ve read enough of my previous posts, you’ve probably gathered by now that I served briefly in the U.S. Air Force and currently work as a civilian in a defense-related federal agency. (I switched to part-time a few months ago in order to build up my nutrition practice. Woohoo!)

But I haven’t shared much of my personal history. If you happened at some point to wander over and read the “About Me” section on my website, then you’ve got a general idea of where I’m coming from and how it is I came to study nutrition. But that really doesn’t tell the half of it. So if you’ll bear with me, I’d like to share the full story. Maybe it’ll speak to someone out there who’s in the same boat, or maybe it’ll really hammer home why I’m so passionate about all this, and will give a good foundation for future related posts.

I can’t speak for all nutritionists and healthcare professionals, but, speaking for myself, I still have bad days. Plenty of them. I still have “fat days.” I still have days where, for whatever reason (and no, it’s not always “that time of the month”), I get emotionally clobbered and would just as soon throw the covers back over my head and not leave the house, and the only reason I do step outside and join the world of the living is because I have to go to work and I don’t want to burn a vacation day just to stay home and wallow in self-loathing. (I can do that just as well from my cubicle. Maybe even better there, hehheh.)

You know what I’m talking about—those days 
when you feel like you can fly.
 Let’s have more of those.
But then I have a GOOD DAY. A day where, I kid you not, I can feel the universe’s energy buzzing around me. I know that sounds like whackadoodle hippie hokum, but if you’ve ever experienced it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The optimism, the energy, the feeling like EVERYTHING. IS. AWESOME. Especially YOU and YOUR LIFE. The angels are singing, rainbows and sunshine surround you, and you can and will do everything you’ve ever dreamed of. These days don’t happen often, but when they do, not only do I feel a resounding zing on the inside that’s usually absent from my everyday life, but I feel absolutely freaking fantastic about my appearance. This might sound shallow to some of you, but to any of you out there who have a similar background to mine (which I’ll get to next time), then you can appreciate just what a big deal that is. Huge. For someone who spent far too much of her life hiding from the world, wanting to be seen and wanting to participate in life is a very big deal.

And wanting to be a part of the world instead apart from the world feels so good that I want to share it with others. With whoever will listen. They can make an appointment and meet with me in person, or maybe they can read future posts in this series and learn for free. I don’t care how they access the information, as long as they can access it, and as long as it touches them in some way and gets them thinking about weight, health, fitness, and physical and emotional vitality in a new way.

I want people to know it doesn’t have to be so damn hard. It’s not about starving ourselves and trying to muster the energy to hit the gym when all we’ve eaten all day is a couple stalks of celery, a skinny latte, and half a fat-free muffin.

It’s not about ordering the egg white omelet with whole wheat toast, or about racking up 8 miles daily on the trail or treadmill. It’s not about points, ounces, grams, or willpower, and it’s not about paying penance at the gym when we exceed our self-imposed "allowance" of any of these. 

It’s just not.

There’s no magical mathematical formula that balances out to thinner thighs or a disappearing beer belly.

So consider this little into your warning about the next few posts related to this. I’ll be delving pretty deep into my history regarding diet, exercise, and self-esteem (or, really, lack thereof). After those, we’ll be getting into human physiology and metabolism, and I want to set the stage properly, so that if I get emotional talking about seemingly dry things like glycogen, glucagon, and insulin, you’ll understand why. This isn’t just about the science for me. I love learning biochemistry and physiology. I find them fascinating. (Nerd alert, nerd alert!) But what I really love is how learning about these things has helped me understand what happens inside the body when we eat certain foods, don’t get enough sleep, or are under a lot of emotional stress and not managing it well.

When we learn about how the body works on a fundamental, cellular, biochemical level, the big, confusing mystery about what to eat isn’t so big or confusing or mysterious at all. And losing weight transforms from an epic struggle and a largely losing battle into the simple act of working with your physiology and with your biochemistry, supporting the processes that support you, instead of beating yourself up in every way you can--overexercising, undereating, emotional self-flagellation, and the most awful kinds of self-talk wherein you utter the most vile, foul things at yourself--things you would never, ever say to someone you care about. 

There are no secrets. No magic potions, and no silver bullet six-step programs to rebuild your body and health. (Except maybe this one. No, just kidding...sort of.) Its fairly simple, actually, when you understand how your own body works. (Notice I said simple. I didn't say easy. They're not the same thing, and we'll cover that eventually. It's not easy, but its not as difficult as you might think, either.)

And this is what I hope to convey. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick. It’s going to take a while, and themes will emerge and evolve over time. The hormonal regulation of body fat and overall health is not cut out for 140-character explanations via Twitter. Some things deserve detail, and we owe it to ourselves to recognize and appreciate the nuances. I’ll try to do for this topic what I did for digestion: present some basic physiology and explain things in commonsense ways that are easy to understand. We’ll talk about how great it is when the body is in a groove of happy unicorn wonderfulness, and what happens when things go awry. You won’t need a PhD to interpret it, just an open mind, a dash of curiosity, and a desire to understand how your own body works so you can start making sense of scare tactic headlines like, “Red meat will give you cancer--RIGHT NOW!!” or “People who eat bacon 112% more likely to DIE!” And you’ll be able to decide for yourself which breakfast is more appropriate for you and your health goals: a bowl of oatmeal with skim milk and fruit, with a glass of OJ and a slice of whole wheat toast; or a spinach, feta, & mushroom omelet (with the yolks!) cooked in butter, topped with a little homemade salsa.

So with that, I’ll end here for now. After the next few posts, you’ll either love me or hate me, but either way, you’ll know where I’m coming from and why sharing what I’ve learned is so important to me.

Here we go…

Remember: Amy Berger, M.S., NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained herein and the services provided are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition.

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