I have a strong, but unusual opinion on the health and wellness industry. If you ever read any of my prior writing, you know I was born with a rare metabolic disease. I write frequently about it. What makes metabolic disease especially interesting is the fact that this cohort of conditions are most often treated with extremely restrictive diets that are difficult to maintain and counter to social norms. Imagine the strictness of a body-building diet, but for a lifetime, and with severe health consequences if not followed.
My dietary restriction was protein. My prescription diet required me to limit myself to 7g of protein a day, every day of my life. The most simplistic explanation is: I was never able to eat any meat, poultry, eggs, fish, legumes, beans, seeds, nuts, dairy, soy, and I had to avoid most grains. Food restrictions for the sake of health were my life. I never received basic nutrition guidance, because it was not relevant. My medical team was most concerned about my brain health. Traditional healthy choices were off-limits for me.
I grew up weighing and measuring every bite of food I ate. When I could count numbers, my mom gave me a chart to use to add up every gram of protein I ate. I filled in a square with a marker whenever I ate something. When I hit the line at the top of my chart, I had to stop eating for the day. Food needed to be properly allocated between meals.
I was an active kid. I received the popular 1980s workout kit called ‘Get in Shape, Girl!” just before I turned eight years old. I loved it. Since the time mass marketing introduced me to aerobics as a child, I don’t recall a time when fitness wasn’t part of my life. I was not very coordinated, but the small private middle school I attended didn’t cut anyone from the volleyball or basketball team as long as the person showed up to practice. I ran track and cross country in high school. After I graduated high school, I never played formal sports again. But I did continue to exercise as much as I could. I ran marathons and weight lifted and worked very hard to stay active and athletic.
It wasn’t until I was much older and the medical community learned more about my condition that I understood my obsession with fitness was partly due to the fact that exercise is probably the only…