Have you ever thrown in the towel to healthy eating and reasonable workouts, giving in to the all too familiar temptation of crash dieting? As the youngest, tallest, and thickest of three daughters, I’ve always been hyper conscious of every curve on my body. From the age of 14 (the first time I was ever described as “nice and fat” by my well-meaning aunt), I’ve been counting the calories and experimenting with one get-slim-quick scheme after the other. Lemon and cayenne pepper cleanse? I’ve tried it. All vegetable fast? Been there, done that.
For a while, the older I got, the more diet-savvy I thought I was becoming. By the time Inauguration 2008 rolled around, I figured I had the yo-yo dieting routine down pat. As hoards of brown faces converged on Washington D.C. to celebrate President Obama’s historic inauguration, my best friend Liza and I devised a stringent plan to make sure our bodies were trim and tantalizing for the countless parties we were attending that weekend. We would eat the bare minimum (egg whites, soy burgers, and green tea were permitted) and dance off any excess calories at the club. The morning of the biggest party of the weekend, we even woke up early and hit the gym. We were determined to look flawless and fat-free.
And when we arrived at the club that night, we thought we’d achieved victory. We were ushered past the waiting crowds, through the velvet rope, and it wasn’t long before we were in VIP. Then, as Liza and I danced on couches and flirted with a crew of handsome football players, a waiter walked by with a tray of steaming appetizers. I was used to having my guard up against temptation during the day, but I wasn’t expecting to be ensnared in a web of transfat delight in the club.
But at the sight of the crispy morsels, my taste buds immediately perked up, everyone around me blended into one fast-moving blur, and all I could hear above the sound of the thumping music was the sound of my stomach doing the stanky leg. My eyes zeroed in on the chicken fingers on the tray, and without so much as a second thought, I threw up the deuces to my willpower, snatched a savory, fried tender, and stuffed it in my mouth. I snuck another piece. Then another. Before I knew it I was having a full-out feast in the posh night club, trying to dance while I chewed to hide the evidence.
Why do we do it to ourselves? Starve our way to losing quick pounds in a few days so we can look fabulous in that hot new dress, only to wind up in a binge of gluttony a short time later? We will inevitably gain all of the weight back (plus more!). Not to mention the irrevocable damage being wreaked on the body—from slowing our metabolism to weakening our hearts. According to Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld, a Professor of Medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, “A crash diet once won’t hurt your heart, but crash dieting repeatedly increases the risk of heart attacks.”
To get long-lasting results and minimize health risks, we have to actually put in the time and diligence it takes to make a life—not short-term—change. I now realize that the only way to maintain a healthy weight is to practice an active and healthy lifestyle. With fun workouts (my favorites are West African dance and Bikram yoga, and I even ran a half-marathon last year), I keep my weight in my desirable range and am still able to indulge at times. Admittedly, I still get tempted to try radical weight-loss measures, but I now know that self-deprivation only leads to crashing and burning.