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Gray: The powerful force of a magnet

August 17, 2012
Trina Gray , The Alpena News

A refrigerator magnet can change your life. Let me explain.

When I was in elementary school, I visited a friend's house to play. Her mother had a magnet on the refrigerator with a carrot crossed out. It read: "My diet will start tomorrow." The trinket confused my young, curious mind. I asked my mom about it. She quickly dismissed it and said, " Trina, don't get caught in that trap of dieting. Just live healthy. Women who constantly diet are constantly unhappy." That advice has served me well for three decades.

When my mom, Judi, was visiting Alpena recently, she attended one of my group fitness classes at the health club. I shared this story with my participants. I told them how my mother was a role model for health, but it took me being a mother myself to really appreciate this. She never dieted. She never talked about the scale. She never criticized her body. She never starved herself. She never asked, "Does this outfit make me look fat?"

Growing up, I thought all women were like my mom. When in fact, research shows that 67 percent of American women between the ages of 25 and 45 struggle with disordered eating, which is any relationship with food that is abnormal or unhealthy, such as yo-yo dieting, binging, obsessing about calories, just to name a few. Furthermore, 80 percent of American women express dissatisfaction with their appearance.

How did my mom avoid this trap? She ate fresh food and stayed active, while raising four kids. More importantly, she simply removed unhealthy words and behaviors from our household. I never heard the word "diet." That is so powerful. She trained herself to have a healthy outlook on her body and on her life. Her actions supported it. She wasn't living an overweight, sedentary life and just ignoring it; rather she was living fit and healthy and just not talking about it. Do you see the difference?

How did she stay active with four kids under the age of five? She didn't make excuses. Chasing us around the house kept her on her feet, but wasn't enough to stay fit. She knew that a successful fitness routine needed more structure and certainly required a bit of time to herself. Fitness is just as much about mental health as it is about physical. For many years, she danced ballet a couple of evenings per week. In fact, she was still performing in the Madison Nutcracker Ballet into her 50s. When she hung up her toe shoes, she found a new home in the group fitness studio, where she is still a regular in classes several times per week, at the age of 71.

My friend, Trish Blackwell, had a very different magnet on her refrigerator growing up and it changed the trajectory of her life. In her book, "The Skinny, Sexy Mind: The Ultimate French Secret," Trish writes about her mother's lifelong struggle with dieting, calorie counting, exercise addiction and unhappiness. She wrote: "Food was my mom's enemy. The sole item hanging on our refrigerator door, attached with a magnet, was a piece of paper with her handwritten mantra: Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. My impressionable, young mind agreed."

Trish spent the ages of 13 to 24 seeking perfection in her body and was trapped by an eating disorder. She tracked calories, burned calories, cut calories and imprisoned her mind with endless calculations. She starved herself and gorged herself, she hated her body and tried to escape it until she found her saving grace.

Over the course of two years living in France, Trish healed herself, and is now inspiring others, by embracing a French expression "etre bien dans votre peau," which translated directly means "to be well in your skin." It is the closest translation to our word "confident" and means so much more. It's more than walking with your head up. It's walking with grace and love.

You can learn to live well in your skin. Start by making real changes to live healthier day in and day out. Lead the charge by moving more and eating better, not out of punishment, but out of pleasure.

Moms, aunts, sisters, leaders, friends and neighbors - purge your vocabulary of negative self-talk about your body. Stop poisoning young minds with endless talk of diets and skinny jeans. Instead, make a healthy choice without saying a word. Someone around you, or looking up to you, is watching.

Trina Gray is the owner of Bay Athletic Club, a mother of two, a national presenter on fitness and wellness and a change agent in the community. Her wellness column appears monthly.



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