I suppose it is safe to say that everyone has one major breakup in his or her life. For some people it happens at 16, crushed by their first love; for others it happens at 80 when their spouse of 60 years passes away. As for me, I was in my mid-twenties, living a highly social and seemingly fulfilling life working in Public Relations at LVMH.
It was the days of “Sex In The City,” Indochine and 7th on Sixth; Twilo and Mr. Chow, and the California girl in me completely had embraced the jet set New York City lifestyle, boyfriend in finance and all. At the time, the breakup blindsided me, although when I look back, the evidence was all there. I just choose not to see it. Such is the case with most young loves. And as is also often the case, what was at the time a devastating blow, turned out to be the catalyst for a change — a reset — that still impacts my life to this day, almost 20 years later.
As anyone who has ever experienced heartbreak in one form or another can attest, one of two things typically happens: you either lose weight from the stress of the situation, or you turn to food for comfort. I fell into the first category, which quickly took my already lean body to even thinner proportions — dangerously thin by most accounts. But, being that this was New York City and the ’90s, I was flooded with compliments about my skeletal frame and my gaunt, high cheekbones. My size-zero frame was enviable in the fashion industry; I was asked to walk in runway shows and had a date every night of the week. From the outside, post-breakup life suited me well.
Months passed, and with them, so did the heartbreak. My appetite returned, along with my self-esteem, and the frantic, nervous energy dissipated… or at least for a while. As remnants of my old self reemerged, I began to gain back some of the weight I had lost. It started with just a few welcome pounds, and then a few more, and then a few more, until I was back at my pre-breakup, lean-yet-healthy weight. But my mind and self-esteem played tricks on me, taunting me to want to be super-skinny, equating attraction with emaciation and popularity with gauntness. A dangerous equation, to say the least.
So, for the first time in my life, I started to diet. I became a diet junkie, an expert on any trendy diet that hit The New York Times Bestseller list. From The Cabbage Soup Diet to The Atkins Diet; The Zone, Eat Right For Your Blood Type, and Weight Watchers. You name it, I tried it. My face ballooned; I was puffy from all the sugar and toxins in my body. While the diets advocated eating real food, they also advocated only eating protein or avoiding a banana or tomato because of the “sugar content;” they restricted food groups and made eating a micro-managed situation. I abided by this restrictive mind-set during the day, binged on empty calories and processed foods at night and then forced myself to work out extra long the next day until this became my daily pattern. Starve, binge, exercise and repeat. Unhealthy, to say the least. So, in the process of trying to lose weight through all these restrictive and ridiculous diets, I not only gained weight, but I was miserable, unsatisfied and unhealthy. And I drastically messed up my metabolism in the process.
I was denying myself satisfying, nutritious food, forcing myself to exercise even when I did not have the energy to, in an effort to burn calories so I could eat more. I was bingeing every day on sugar and processed foods in an effort to fill an emotional void. I was aware enough to know I was unhealthy and that something had to shift. After the tragic events of September 11, compounded with my desire to break my unhealthy pattern, I uprooted my life and moved to the beach in Mexico. I started to eat locally and seasonally, replacing sugary packaged foods with fresh fruits. Removed from the pressures of day-to-day life in New York City, I was able to recalibrate and get back in touch with my emotions and in turn, my body. The shift in perspective opened my eyes to the trap of emotional eating and the dangers of dieting. Ultimately, it served as the inspiration for two travel wellness (or should I say “destination fitness”) programs I co-founded: Escape To Shape and Destination Detox.
All those years of dieting, time spent beating myself up for eating a banana or skipping a workout and the endless calorie counting resulted in a real life reset. Eating real, healthy food, practicing moderation and studying fitness, nutrition and yoga allowed me to not only reset my perspective, but my metabolism as well. I am lucky enough to be able to share this with each of my clients.
Thankfully, I’ve come a long way since my days in New York City in my 20s. I can honestly say that had none of that happened – had I not been forced to reset my own life – I would not be able to empathize with my clients who are on a quest to reset their own lives, whether it be to lose weight, switch careers, find a partner, leave their partner, have a child, see their child off to college, find their passion or simply just rest and relax. As I always say, most of life’s best gifts come in the most unique of packages.