From 51 and Fit to 55 and Free, My Body Journey

I’ve been on a body journey all my life, and at the age of 51, I took a huge leap of faith and started a whole new series in my book of life. You can read that journey in my post How I Went from 51 and Fit to 53 and Fabulous. Briefly, I weighed 184 pounds on my 51st birthday, enrolled in a weight-loss program, lost 34 pounds, became fit, maintained most of the weight loss, changed my daily eating to one of whole-food-plant-based eating, kept my weight at between 155 and 160, developed a thrice-weekly workout regiment, endlessly hiked, and after four an a half years on this journey, I began working on the ultimate question about body. What is the ultimate question?

Is there Zen between Food, Mind, Body, and Soul?

In my last post on this topic two years ago, I left off with the question of, “Could I find the ultimate zen and balance on food, mind, body, soul?” I let this question linger for a while, almost forgetting that I had asked it. Granted, I was a bit busy. My 54th year was quite chaotic. My husband retired, my youngest graduated, we sold all of our possessions, we packed two suitcases, and we jumped into our nomad life.

Despite all the changes I knew would be happening in 2021, I stayed committed to the true needs that my body craves which I had previously identified.

Yet as we began to uproot our life and then as nomad life settled in, I found that two things rang true:

  1. My ability to control my food choices became challenging.
  2. My ability to consistently do the workouts I wanted became burdensome.

Because of these two things, I started to see a few rolls add on to my body. Although my limited wardrobe still fit, it’d gotten snug. I could see a tire developing around my middle, and my legs started to jiggle again. I started to panic, and I upped the workouts. And this is when the cosmos gave me the opportunity to review the work I’ve been doing on my health and revisit the last question I asked in my last Fit and 51 update. I quote myself,

“There are a few things I need to work on.

  • How to be still
  • How to embrace variations on the scale
  • How to respond to people’s comments about this journey.”

Did It Really Tear?

We were in Kent, England, on a housesit with a fabulous Samoyed named Teddy. He loved a good walk, and each morning, either Steve or I would clock a brisk 45-minute walk through the neighborhood. Afterward, we’d go to the local rec center for a workout. Twice a week, we caught their version of our beloved F45 workout. I don’t remember exactly what it was called, perhaps it was, “Butts, Bums, and Tums?”

If you want to housesit, I’ve got all kinds of tips.

I felt like we had returned to the 1970s with Jane Fonda and the Jazzercise crowd when exercise physiology was in its infancy. Moves we now view as dangerous and ligament ripping were incorporated in this English version of a HITT class, but I followed along, too proud to modify my moves to be more gentle.

And bam.

The top of my leg went one way, and the bottom went the other. Stupidly, I finished the class. Then I hobbled back to our home, where ice and ibuprofen became staples of my days for the next six weeks. But I didn’t listen to the pain screaming from my knee. I couldn’t resist that British tourism beckoned me to come and explore Rochester and Liverpool (Read a Vegan Weekend in Liverpool). I still clocked 15000 steps a day, literally crying at the end of the day in the latest Airbnb, begging Steve to bring me another bag of frozen peas to ice my knee cap and its meniscus.

Atrophy Is the Worst

Swollen knees and a bruised ego forced me to re-evaluate a lot of things

Finally, when we arrived to Glasgow, my knee refused to move. I sat still for two weeks, the pain receded, but my ego still forced me into the local rec center. I compromised with myself that I wouldn’t work my leg, rather I’d focus on my upper body. Never the less, squats crept back in as I reacted to the atrophy occurring in my thighs and my expanding belly ring. I couldn’t straighten my leg completely, and pain seeped into my hip as an overcompensating set of hip muscles did double time to the reduced mobility in my knee.

Body movement virtually stopped. I sat around the house, eating, in pain, and bored. Steve would go sightsee while I fell into a temporary depression magnified by the gray skies of Glasgow’s winter beginning to set in. I put on a happy face for *you*, by blog-reading public, but inside, I was devasted. Fortunately, another housesit quickly took us to sunnier Bristol, England. While the rest started to pay off and the swelling in my knee subsided, the mobility within it got worse.

Vibrating Stonehenge Shook My Soul

Stonehenge called my name (Read Five Groovy Things to Do in Bristol), and I refused to miss it. I swallowed handfuls of ibuprofen and gimped my way through a thrilling and vibrating experience at Stonehenge, putting a smile on my face and showing gratitude that I could be there. And it was at Stonehenge that I realized something had to change.

A healing set of stones, Stonehenge

My body was deeply telling me that the rigor and rigidity I had been putting it through for the last four years, or perhaps my entire life, had taken its toll. Afterall, in the last four years, I had walked 7.5 miles EVERY DAY and worked out with high intensity for three days a week every week. Wasn’t this amount of physical exercise supposed to be good for me? Clearly, my body had answered the question I had been afraid to ask.

If I changed it up, what would happen?

My Greatest Body Fears Surface

I feared I would balloon back to my 184 pounds, lose my fitness, get fat, and not be able to do all the physical things on our nomad agenda that I’d been waiting to do for at least a decade. My internal combustion of my brain was on fire. I did not trust my body in the slightest bit. I had made tons of progress on eating and food, but none on exercise and fitness. I was clearly in a “more is better” attitude, and the more got the better parts of me. If I listened truly listened to all the messages my body was sending, what would happen?

How would I figure a way out of this?

I had no idea how to go about answering the questions I had asked two years ago. How could I reconcile my mind, my body, and my soul in a way that suited me, on my terms, and with great healing? My mind and my body were out of whack. How could I fix them?

Asking for Help, Again

And once again, I asked for help. I found it in two places. Steve was nothing short of amazingly supportive.

Bristol was fun, but man oh man, the pain was at its worst.

Both spaces were online. In the first space, an accountability group on Facebook, I set out an accountability goal of “Heal thy knee.” I didn’t care what it would take; exercise, physical therapy, surgery, shots. Whatever. If I had to sit on my butt, gain weight, and lose fitness in order to get mobility back into my knee, I was committed to doing it.

Embracing “No” to Diet Culture

The second place I found was a beautiful space online with a class to guide me. I found Body Trust. In this course, I learned that my entire view of my body was one forced on me by a life long journey through diet culture and dieting. Yes, I had sworn I would never diet again, but I was still succumbing to the white, patriarchal view of women’s bodes. I viewed my body the way my society forced me to view it.

Never good enough, never thin enough, and never fit enough.

I didn’t trust that my own body’s cues were good enough to keep me healthy, fit, and well. I had fallen into a cycle of letting everyone else–fitness coaches and wellness coaches–dictate how I should take care of my body. Through the evidence of my knee, I learned too much was debilitating.

Know Thyself

handsome woman on beach in mexico
Improving myself in Mexico

Smacking myself upside the head, I realized that I have the tools I need. I know my body better than anyone else. I just need to retune myself to listen within, trust my body is telling me what it needs, and honor that whatever it tells me is exactly what I need. And my body will also look like exactly what I trust my body to look like. Whatever the number on the scale says or however many rolls tumble over my waistline, I’m perfect.

Don’t get me wrong. I have in no way given up on being healthy, being a healthy weight, and having a healthy mind. But now, I’m defining it on my terms. I’m finally free of the bullshit the weight and fitness industries throw at us to be thin and tiny. If I still have this extra roll under my boobs in another two years, well, my friends, I guess it’s there to stay.

My Prediction and a Challenge to You

I’m going to predict this. Now that my knee is healed thanks to some great care in Puerto Vallarta (Read Improve Yourself in Puerto Vallarta), I can return to the movement that my body craves. I doubt I’ll go back to HITT classes. I might. But rather, I see myself finding organic movement in my life as we move around the world. I’ll still be walking, but now since I won’t be counting my steps, I might jump on a bike share, go to a free salsa class in the park, and do my own sets of calisthenics on the beach. Food, found through the flavors on the street and the unique ingredients in the stores, will become part of the experience. It will still be whole-food-plant-based (vegan), but I’ll eat because I’m hungry or I want to try something new.

I don’t have to eat things I don’t like in order to stay smaller. I’m going to eat the things I enjoy.

Thus, doing the movement I love and eating the foods I enjoy, I finally feel free from the dieting culture bullshit of my life. And because I’m free, I can listen to myself more fully, with love, and finally, without shame.

Join Me without Shame

Who wants to join my in this new life of freedom, and how can I support you? Send me a message, and we’ll communicate with each other along the journey. Let’s create an army of healthy women who break the diet and fitness patriarchy of insanity. I finally feel that after a life-long journey that has acutely summarized in the last four years, I’m on a path to greatness. Let’s walk it together.

10 Comments

  1. Lisa

    The struggle is real! Been there, done that. Nomadic 6 yrs, just started Year 7. Tore my meniscus in Egypt in 2020, so painful! Got an mri in Croatia to confirm. Pain so bad I had to use a cane! Right after,, we rode out covid in Portugal. I ordered hiking poles, slowly walked using 2, then 1, dropped sugar & refined carbs eating whole foods only (but not vegan) and lost weight & knee slowly healed. I truly just focused on my knee getting better not weight (even tho I needed to lose alot to see if it helped knee or whether surgery was needed), as a good friend righly asked how we could keep up the nomad life with my bad knee. It really jolted me.

    I now try to listen to my body. I did lose weight & it helped my knee, I feel so much better, do not allow myself to feel hungry, but eat to live with simple, whole foods. Protein & veg, which is simple to find everywhere, even in Thaand where we are now. There is not a restaurant here where I can’t get protein & veg, just skip the rice & noodles for me! Whatever works best for you & keeps you feeling good, is what works. Agree not outward appearance,, but how you feel! We are all different & I just want to walk around new places we travel for pleasure, not visit a gym. So that’s what we do II am just so grateful I can walk without pain, it feels like a miracle! I don’t know how you braved the pain …

    Reply
    • EatWalkLearn

      I love this story so much. It’s exactly yes! yes! yes! to everything. The pain totally suxed…and waiting out the insurance/medical cost really was awful. But I think I needed the time, mentally too, to just figure out what I was willing to do and not do. And yes, I know for me that the less I weigh and the better I eat, the better my knee feels. It’s a no brainer for me, but sometimes I need reminding.

      Reply
  2. Cristine Naylor

    Wow 🤩 Love this post so much. I resonate deeply with parts of your journey (as you know!) and am happy to join your tribe of women fighting our own internalization of the toxic and patriarchal standards for women a bodies. Let’s do this! 💪🏻👭

    Reply
    • EatWalkLearn

      Thanks so much Cristine! I’m so glad we got to meet, too. Down with the patriarchy! Let’s do this!

      Reply
  3. Kate

    Loved every word! So much resonated. I’ve been on a similar journey through my life. I used to run but my body can’t do it anymore. I miss it…and yet I don’t miss the pushing of myself. At 59, I’ve moved into a gentler time of life. Perhaps part of this is seasons of life…and a willingness to let go of an idea of who were think we are, and to grow.

    Reply
    • EatWalkLearn

      Thanks so much Kate! With age comes wisdom, I guess. I refuse to bow down to that cliche though. I do think we (women) are having an awakening of what’s true and real, regardless of age. Thank heavens for growth.

      Reply
  4. Loreta

    GREAT article, thank you!!!!!!! And so important for all women, and men, to hear.

    Reply
    • EatWalkLearn

      Especially the men :-). Thank you!

      Reply
  5. Latreash

    I absolutely LOVE this Chris. What a journey and you’ve come to a good place. I always remind myself that the healthiest, longest living people on the planet (Blue Zones) never set foot in a gym. They ate 95% plant based and remain active as a regular part of their day (walking, hiking, gardening, etc).
    I’m not nomadic yet, but hope to continue on a WFPB diet when I am, at least 95% of the time.

    Reply
    • EatWalkLearn

      Thank you Latreash. That’s an interesting point about the Blue Zones. Is it you that wants to get to each Blue Zone? I don’t remember where I read that in our nomad world, but it’s one of us. That’s really intriguing. I’m also learning that in the WFPBNO part of the world is the NO that seems to be the most important. The more oil I eat, the worse I feel, and the more bloated I get. Glad to support you on this journey.

      Reply

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handsome hiking couple

Chris and Steve, the empty-nesting nomads, travel the world, one month at a time, housesitting and Airbnbing along the way. We uncover urban walks, great hikes, and vegan/vegetarian eats that other guide books miss. And we throw in a bit about Forex trading along the way.

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