Total Health in Midlife Episode #171: My Story

My Story

Growing up amid the cultural shifts of the 1980s, my relationship with food and exercise was far from straightforward. It was a journey marked by the highs of artistic family values and the lows of economic strain, shaping a pathway that often felt more like a battleground than a route to health. 

This episode peels back the layers of that journey, inviting you into an intimate look at how I, Elizabeth Sherman, came to understand that true wellness is a tapestry woven from physical, emotional, and spiritual threads. From the restrictive clutches of fad diets to the punishing demands of extreme workouts, I share how I broke free and found a rhythm that resonates with the heartbeat of genuine, sustainable health.

As my narrative unfolds, you’ll hear about the momentous shift that occurred when I chose to view my health behaviors through a lens of curiosity rather than judgment. It’s a story of hiring a coach who reframed my approach to wellness, teaching me to listen to the wisdom of my body and trust its guidance. 

Over two decades, I transitioned from a cycle of disappointment to discovering a balanced life that honors hormonal health and embraces a holistic perspective. Tune in to hear how these insights can light the way for anyone seeking to transform their own health story, fostering vitality, confidence, and joy on a journey to harmonious self-relationship. 

Join me as we share this space of growth and encouragement, and may your week ahead be as transformative as the tales we tell.

Chapter Summaries 

My Health Transformation Story (0:00:05)

Personal journey towards health and body acceptance, emphasizing tuning into our bodies and hearts, and taking responsibility for our wellness.

Transforming Health and Wellness Journey (0:17:58) 

A transformative journey from unsustainable practices to balance and hormonal health, with a focus on listening to and trusting the body’s signals.

Embracing Transformation for Health and Wellness (0:33:18) 

Transformation is possible at any stage of life, with the power to rewrite our narrative and achieve peace and empowerment.

Are you loving the podcast, but arent sure where to start? click here to get your copy of the Done with Dieting Podcast Roadmap Its a fantastic listening guide that pulls out the exact episodes that will get you moving towards optimal health.

If you want to take the work we’re doing here on the podcast and go even deeper, you need to join the Feel Good Sisterhood - my group coaching program for women in midlife who are done with dieting, but still want to feel good! The Feel Good Sisterhood is open for enrollment, so click here to discover if group coaching is a right fit for you and your goals.

I am so excited to hear what you all think about the podcast – if you have any feedback, please let me know! You can leave me a rating and review in Apple Podcasts, which helps me create an excellent show and helps other women who want to get off the diet roller coaster find it, too.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode

  • Uncover a roadmap to navigate your health challenges and find breakthroughs you never thought possible.
  • Explore how striving for perfect health can lead to harm, but finding acceptance in imperfection can bring positive change and personal growth.
  • Embark on a fascinating journey of fitness and food changes, learning how being flexible and making small habits shift can lead to big transformations in health and happiness.
  • Embark on a life-changing voyage towards self-acceptance and genuine well-being, discovering the magic of self-kindness, and openness, and tuning into your body’s wisdom for lasting harmony and energy.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Full Episode Transcript:

Today, I’m sharing my story. I’ve been in your ear for over 170 episodes now. Although, I share parts of my story, I’ve never laid it out all for you. I wanted to share it with you because you see me as an after. But I can tell you wholeheartedly, that I have been a work in progress, and it’s been a long time in the making.

One thing that before and after pictures don’t show is the internal transformation that happens on this road to food freedom and body acceptance. At the start, I was living a life where your every decision around food, exercise, and health felt like I was walking through a minefield. Constantly, battling between what I wanted to do and what I thought I should do.

Now, after, picture a transformation that’s so profound. It not only changes your body, but it redefines your entire relationship with health, self-image, and inner peace. There isn’t one relationship that my transformation with my body hasn’t impacted.

So, what if I told you that the secret to lasting health isn’t actually found in the latest diet craze or the most grueling workout routine. But rather in the quiet, steady work of listening to your body, to your heart, and to the wisdom that you already possess.

This process isn’t about quick fixes or superficial changes. It’s about the deep, sometimes challenging work of becoming the healthiest version of yourself. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually.

If you’ve ever felt lost in the sea of health advice, struggled with your body image, or wondered if it’s possible to find peace with food in your body, this episode is for you. I’m going way beyond the surface, sharing real, raw insights from a path that’s taken over two decades.

Stay with me, because this is one episode that promises not just to inspire, but to change the way that you think about health and wellness forever. Let’s dive in.

Welcome to Total Health and Midlife, the podcast for women embracing the pivotal transformation from the daily grind to the dawn of a new chapter. I’m Elizabeth, your host and fellow traveler on this journey.

As a Life and Health Coach, I am intimately familiar with the changes and challenges we face during this stage. Shifting careers, changing relationships, our new bodies, and redefining goals and needs as we start to look to the future and ask, what do I want?

In this podcast, we’ll explore physical, mental, and emotional wellness, offering insights and strategies to achieve optimal health through these transformative years.

Yes, it’s totally possible.

Join me in this amazing journey of body, mind, and spirit, where we’re not just improving our health, but transforming our entire lives.

Hey everyone, welcome back to the podcast. I am your host Elizabeth Sherman and today I am telling my story. I’m taking a step back to share something that’s really kind of personal and vulnerable with you. My own health and transformation process.

It’s a story that I’ve touched on in pieces across episodes and conversations, but I’ve never really laid it out all from start to finish, and that’s what I’m doing for you today.

Now, you might be wondering, why is Elizabeth sharing this? Why do I care or what’s in it for me? And I get it. Hearing someone else’s story can sometimes feel a little distant, disconnected, like it’s their victory, their struggle, not mine.

But here’s the thing. My story, with all its ups and downs, fears, frustrations, and eventual breakthroughs, is not just a story about overcoming obstacles. It’s actually a pathway for anyone standing at the crossroads wanting to improve their health but feeling utterly lost in how. It’s for those of you who are like, my body is broken, I don’t know, nothing works for me.

This episode isn’t about me boasting or painting a picture of overnight success. It has certainly not been that. It’s about the gritty, often overlooked work of tuning into our bodies and navigating our emotions and finding what truly works for us individually. It’s about the long winding road to health that doesn’t hinge on the latest diet craze or the most grueling exercise routine, but rather a deeper understanding of ourselves.

And so, my transformation was not the result of stumbling upon some magic formula. Trust me, I looked for it. It was born out of introspection, patience, and learning to listen. Really listen to my body, to my heart, taking responsibility, and implementing the work.

Along the way, I developed skills that helped me persevere, even when there was no clear evidence that my efforts quite frankly would pay off.

If you are feeling stuck, if you are tired of the endless cycle of dieting and disappointment, you’re going to want to listen to this episode. It’s a testament to the power of resilience and the importance of self-discovery and the undeniable truth that the path to health is as unique as you are, as your fingerprint is.

Let’s explore this journey together and not just for the destination but for the insight and the learning that await along the way.

So, Growing up in the 1980s, my family’s approach to health and diet was a reflection of the times. And also, our economic realities. I’m the youngest of six kids, so I grew up in a family of eight people and navigating the complexities of feeding everyone on a tight budget.

That’s what my mom strived for. How do I feed eight mouths on this budget. Our meals often consisted of casseroles, Campbell’s soup chicken A La King, and fruit encased jello molds. Raise your hand if you recognize that.

Now, it was a family rule that we had to eat together for dinner. And it was a practice that instilled in me the value of family. Even if the nutritional aspect wasn’t necessarily the focus.

My parents, perhaps like many of their generation, saw the body in a very utilitarian light. It was a vessel to carry us from one point to another, nothing more than that. And certainly not as an expression of sexuality or anything like that. There wasn’t much celebration of what our bodies could do. And instead, there was this heavy dose of Christian prudence and an emphasis on modesty.

Physical activity was not discouraged, but it just wasn’t prioritized. And instead, our family’s emphasis was on the arts. So, from fourth grade through high school, every single one of me and my sisters and brother, we were required to play a string instrument. And participation in musicals and orchestra were encouraged over any other form of extracurricular activity, especially, athletics.

This perspective on health and the body wasn’t without its consequences. I remember, one dinner where I was forced to sit at the table long after everyone had left, staring down this plate of spinach, I just did not want to eat. And as my sisters were cleaning up, they were like, just plug your nose and just throw it down or eat it with some milk.

I remember just sitting there, just being so bullheaded, not wanting to eat it. And it was cold, and it was getting worse.

It was a small moment, but it was one of many that began to shape my understanding of food as something other than nourishment. Something to be negotiated with, something that could be a source of conflict.

The impact of these early experiences on my body image and self-perception became starkly evident during one family vacation. My sister Nancy, who always struggled with her weight was the target of a joke, quote unquote, by my father.

We were at of a rest stop or something like that, and he picked up a card featuring a picture of a pig. And on the front of the card, he said out loud, Hey Nance, look. Once on the lips, forever on the hips. And pointed it at her.

The devastation on her face was palpable. And the message it sent to me, and my siblings was super clear, that being overweight was absolutely not acceptable. This moment, among others, cemented a deep seated fear and shame around body image that would probably follow me into adulthood.

The turning point came with my mother’s battle with breast cancer. Witnessing her struggle and eventual passing in 2001 was quite honestly, a profound wake up call for me. I began to connect the dots between our family’s approach to health and the terrifying reality of my mother’s illness.

It was the first time that it dawned on me that if I continued down the path that I was on, that I could connect the dots and I was looking at my future in her.

The fear that gripped me was not just about the possibility of illness. It was about the realization that I had been extremely passive in my approach to my own health. And this period was marked by some intense emotions. Fear of the known and unknown, frustration with my past choices, and an overwhelming desire to change.

I was scared, not just about getting sick, but of what it meant to confront the deeply ingrained habits and beliefs about health that I had grown up with. The decision to make a change was fueled by a desperate need to rewrite my future, to not be a passive bystander in my own life.

But understanding that something needed to change was only the first step. The real change lay ahead in figuring out how to transform this realization into actionable steps. It was hugely daunting, just so overwhelming. Given that my entire understanding of health and body image was built on a foundation of misconceptions, and quite frankly, harmful messages.

However, it was also a moment of awakening. A first tentative step towards taking control of my health, and as I now can see in hindsight, by extension my life.

The process from that point of realization to where I am today was absolutely not a straight line. It was filled with trials, errors, and so many lessons and mistakes that I made. But the most important takeaway from this early stage of my journey was the understanding that change is possible.

It required a willingness to confront and unlearn the damaging beliefs of my past and an openness to forging a new path. This was the beginning of a transformation that would extend far beyond the physical touching every aspect of my life, and ultimately leading me to a place of empowerment and health that I used to think was out of reach. I didn’t even know that where I am today was possible for me.

After my mom died, I was in front of my computer just searching for, how do I not get breast cancer? And it hit me like a ton of bricks. Being overweight was a glaring risk factor, not just for cancer, but for a host of other lifestyle diseases that I didn’t even know about.

That realization was my wake up call, but it was also the beginning of quite honestly, a real tumultuous experience through the world of health and fitness. We had just gotten our first dog around that time, and I started taking her for walks regularly. I had dabbled in exercise before, but never with any real consistency.

Joining a gym and hiring a personal trainer felt like the right steps forward. And so, I was introduced to the calories in versus calories out approach. Now in my mind, exercise was a way to earn more food. It was a simple equation, or so I thought.

The gym provided access to a food logging tool. It was the first that I ever heard of, and it was the first that I had ever used. And that became my first real foray into the world of nutrition. And I remember just being fascinated, learning about different types of foods and the calorie counts of these different foods. And making mental notes of what was quote unquote worth it and what wasn’t

I remember thinking about 10 grapes and 10 raisins. And seeing them and realizing that grapes and raisins were the exact same calories, yet grapes were so much more filling and more satisfying. And so, I was like, well, I’m never eating raisins again.

The other thing was lean cuisines were my go to, until I started cooking. And I realized that I could cook something that tasted better, that was more satisfying and for the same, if not fewer calories.

And so, I was on a quest to eat as much food as possible for the fewest calories all in the name of feeling satisfied. And quite honestly, that’s still something that I kind of teach. It’s kind of like the volumetrics approach.

One thing that really happened when I started logging my food is I tried so hard to be perfect during the week. And this was around the time that I hired a bodybuilding coach and dove into strength training. I joined a community of women who were on very similar paths. And my coach set specific macronutrients for me and introduced the concept of a cheat day.

During the week, I had to hit certain grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, and calories. And then, on the weekends, I could have this cheat day, which I will talk about in just a second, but I kind of embraced it a little bit more than I should have.

I discussed this in podcast episode 162, where the weekends became quite honestly, a free for all. And it completely, got rid of all of my progress. And once, I ended a Saturday night feeling physically sick. I logged my food, and I realized that I had consumed over 5, 500 calories in a day. And I remember, going to bed just feeling sick to my stomach.

That night, the cycle of restriction, quite honestly, a binge and then regret was in full swing. And it kept repeating itself over and over and over again. Now, this cycle was something that I was right in the middle of. I was doing everything quote unquote right, or so I thought. I was following the plan. I was hitting the gym. I was logging. everything.

Yet every weekend, I undid all of my hard work. And the idea of a cheat day as being harmless as it was supposed to be turned into a gateway where I was really overindulging. And it left me confused and frustrated. During the week, I would write down all of the food that I was craving. And then, on the weekend, I allowed myself to have it all.

And what was really confusing was I was asking myself, why wasn’t I making progress? Because my coach insisted at the time that a cheat day shouldn’t really set me back. But she really had no idea to the extent at which I was testing her theory.

The struggle wasn’t just about the numbers on the scale or the food on my plate. It was a battle with my own mindset. The pursuit of trying to be perfect in dieting led me down a path basically to an eating disorder, and certainly body dysmorphia.

What started out as an honest effort to improve my health. Morphed into an obsession with control and a distorted perception of my body. I was trapped in a cycle of self-loathing and punishment, a far cry from the healthy lifestyle I initially sought.

This period of my life was characterized by profound disappointment in myself. I felt like a total failure. I was unable to stick to this quote unquote simple plan. And the more I struggled, the more isolated I felt. I was embarrassed. I had so much shame. And I was convinced that I was the only one unable to make it work.

This endless search for a solution, for that magic formula to health and happiness seemed futile. Yet, this struggle was also a critical learning phase. It forced me to confront the reality that health is not a one size fits all solution. And that the perfect health mindset is not only unattainable, but quite damaging in the process.

The day I realized that what I was doing, my approach to health and fitness wasn’t sustainable, marked the beginning of a huge shift in my journey. I was exhausted from the endless cycle of running in the morning, going to train clients, and then going back to the gym later in the day to lift heavy weights.

And I could not envision, I could not picture myself. Still doing that in my 60s and 70s, my inner critic was relentless. And despite all of my efforts, the weekend binges really continued. And it was clear to me that something had to change.

And so, I made a pivotal decision. I would stop logging my food. I would stop weighing myself, and I would abandon any practice that quite honestly, I couldn’t sustain long term.

The scale had become my master, and it dictated my worth, and my eating habits. It was time to break free and find a way to enjoy the process. But I knew I couldn’t do it alone. And so, I needed some guidance.

I hired a coach. And so, hiring a coach introduced me to the law of compensation. That for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. My coach taught me that my behaviors were not moral failures, they were data points offering insights into my health and to my happiness. This shift in perspective was quite honestly, liberating.

I began to pay attention to how my body felt, and started noticing changes in hunger, in cravings, in sleep patterns, in energy levels, and in my mood. And by stepping away from the rigid diet rules, I started to listen, and then eventually trust my body’s signals.

Curiosity replaced the judgment that I had. Instead of beating myself up about eating too much chocolate, I asked myself, why did I eat that? What else was happening around that same time that made me feel out of control around that? Why did I crave certain foods? What emotions were tied to my eating habits? And how did my diet affect my sleep and energy?

I discovered that cravings weren’t actually a lack of willpower but rather a response to underlying emotions, or something physiological that I had set off in motion earlier in the day. Processed foods and starches left me feeling sluggish, while whole foods improved my overall well-being.

This realization led me to prioritize feeling good over the short term satisfaction of indulging in those foods that I loved, and I craved, and were so much a part of my diet. This new approach was so counterintuitive to everything I had learned about diet and exercise up until that point.

Mistakes? Yeah, I made them. But I was learning, and I was growing. I began to see evidence that this path was working. And it was a process of befriending my body and giving her what she truly needed. She needed proper nutrition and the right type of exercise and adequate rest. Rather than, adhering to an arbitrary set of rules or succumbing to old habits.

The transformation was remarkable. And as I aligned my actions with my body’s needs, she responded in kind, granting me the natural leanness that I had been fighting her for. This wasn’t just about physical health. It was about building a good relationship with my body.

And for the first time, I wasn’t battling with her, I was listening to her, and I was responding with kindness and understanding. We were beginning to trust each other.

She, knowing that I was going to give her enough food. And me, that she would give me the information that I needed in order to give her what she needed.

This course taught me the importance of listening to my body and embracing hormonal balance. My coach played a crucial role in this transformation, guiding me through the obstacles and helping me adjust my approach. The discipline required was not about adhering to a strict regimen, but rather about maintaining the curiosity and openness to adjust my behaviors based on my body’s feedback.

In embracing this new way of thinking, I encountered numerous obstacles. Old habits die hard, and the temptation to revert to familiar patterns was always there. But each challenge was an opportunity to learn and grow. This phase of my journey required a significant mindset shift, a move away from the pursuit of perfection, and towards a focus of balance, health, and happiness.

The process all began in 2001 following my mom’s passing. And it was neither linear nor fast. It was a winding path through trials, errors, and revelations that spanned over two decades. I often think back and wish I had someone like me as I am today, a coach who could guide me through the labyrinth of health and wellness with the understanding and compassion that I offer my clients.

Back then, the kind of holistic empathetic coach I provide now simply just wasn’t available. Had it been, perhaps my results would have been quicker, smoother, and more direct. This reflection isn’t about regret. It’s about understanding the profound depth of my transformation. It underscores a crucial misconception that many of us hold. The belief that the right diet or exercise program is going to magically fix all of our health problems.

My own journey through various diets and fitness programs taught me the importance of being adaptable. Taking what serves me from each of those different things that I tried and discarding what didn’t. From bodybuilding to roller derby, running, and now, engaging in 20 minute workouts and occasional runs, daily walks, and even Pickleball.

My fitness journey has been anything but predictable. I never would have guessed where I am today from years ago. Each phase of my path wasn’t just about physical activity, but it was about evolving my identity to become someone who values and enjoys these activities. Not because of societal expectations or health guidelines, but because they resonate with who I am at my core and as I change.

This evolution extended beyond exercise to my dietary habits as well. The shift from not being able to imagine a day without soda or alcohol, to finding little appeal in them is a true testament to the transformative power of gradual habit change.

The real transformation, however, was not just in the activities that I pursued or the foods that I consumed. It was in the relationship that I cultivated with myself. Developing a harmonious relationship with food, exercise, and self-image brought about a level of self-compassion and inner peace that I had never known, that I didn’t even know existed.

I learned to enjoy the process, to find joy in the process, and to embrace the uniqueness of my path to health. And this is really important for you as well. I learned that if I did not enjoy what I was doing, I wasn’t going to do it. And so, for you as well, if you do not enjoy running or what foods you’re eating, you need to find a process of liking what you’re doing.

This transformation brought an emotional shift from struggle to empowerment where there was once self-doubt and criticism. There’s now self-belief, and quite honestly, self-kindness.

The understanding that health is a personal journey, unique to each individual has reshaped my life and my approach to wellness. It has allowed me to become a guide for others, offering the support and insight I once desperately needed myself.

The promise I hold for you is this. By embracing change, not trying to rush through it, but with patience and with curiosity. You can shift your desire and habits in a way that you have never thought possible.

The allure of cookies, brownies, chocolate, chips, and whatever else it is that you overly desire can diminish. And not through force of will, but through gentle, gradual realignment with what you truly want for yourself.

This path to health and wellness is not about rigid adherence to a set of rules. It’s about finding what fits your life, your body, and your joy. It’s a process of becoming, of unfolding into the person that you are meant to be. Someone who’s healthy, who’s energetic, and who’s at peace with herself. And while the path may not be easy, the destination, a life lived in harmony with alignment of your true self is worth every single step.

As I wrap up today’s episode, I want to extend a personal invitation to you, not just as a listener but as a person, a woman on your unique path towards optimal health and wellness.

Reflect on where you are today. The paths that you’ve taken, the obstacles that you’ve faced, and the victories both big and small that you’ve celebrated along the way. Consider the possibility of transformation, not as a distant dream but rather as an achievable reality one step at a time.

I understand that change can feel daunting. It can be overwhelming. I get it. And the process that you take towards health and self-acceptance can sometimes feel really, really big. But I’m here to tell you that it is possible.

The peace and empowerment that you seek on the other side of your challenges are within reach. It starts with a single step and a decision to prioritize yourself and your well-being. And the courage to embrace the process, no matter how winding the path might be.

I encourage you to connect, to share your stories with me and with others who are walking this path alongside you. Your story is powerful, your experiences are valid, and your viewpoint is super important. And together, we can build a supportive community that uplifts, encourages, and empowers each one of us to become the healthiest versions of ourselves.

If you feel moved to take that step today to begin reshaping your relationship with health, with food, and yourself. I want to invite you to reach out, connect with me on social media, on Facebook at Total Health by Eliz, or on Instagram, And you’ll find the links for both of these in the show notes.

Let’s start a conversation about where you are, where you’d like to be, and how we can navigate it together. And if you’re ready to dive deeper to truly commit to your transformation, I’m here for you. Schedule a call with me at, also it’ll be in the show notes.

And this is more than just a consultation. It’s the first step towards a new chapter in your life. One where you are in control, where health and happiness are not just aspirations, but realities. You are not alone. Your path to health, to peace, and to empowerment is a journey worth taking, and I would be honored to be a part of it.

As I close out, I want to circle back to the essence of this episode. My story, spanning over two decades since 2001 is an example to the transformative power of self-compassion, the strength found in vulnerability, and the courage to embrace change.

I’ve learned through years of struggles and successes that when I stopped battling my body and started listening to it, providing it what it truly needed, it graciously offered me the health and energy that I was trying to force it to be before.

This journey taught me to view my body not as an adversary, but as a friend. One that has supported me every step of the way, even when I quite honestly have not made it easy for her.

Our bodies and minds hold incredible wisdom if we’re willing to listen to them. They will tell us when we need rest, when we need food and nourishment, and when we need movement. And our emotions signal deep seated need for connection, safety, and love.

This understanding did not come overnight. It’s been a 24 year long evolution towards health, self-discovery, and ultimately peace. I want you to know that this result is not just possible for me, but for you and every other woman in midlife grappling with body dysmorphia. A fraught relationship with food and exercise, and a disconnection from her true self.

You are capable of rediscovering who you are inside, what you love, and establishing your boundaries. Your path to health is more than just the physical. It’s about uncovering the strength and love for yourself that has always been there, waiting to be acknowledged and embraced.

Thank you for joining me on this deeply personal episode. I hope it has inspired you to believe in the possibility of transformation, to find joy in the process, and to start on your journey towards health and wellness with an open heart and open mind.

Remember, change is possible at any stage of life. You have the power to rewrite your story, to find peace and empowerment on the other side of your challenges. And if my story resonates with you, and you’re ready to take that first step towards your own transformation, I invite you to connect with me. Let’s continue this conversation and explore how you can step into a life of confidence, and joy.

Thanks for joining me today. That’s all I have for you today. Have an amazing week everyone. I’ll talk to you next time. Bye-bye

Thanks for staying with us till the end of this episode. If you’re looking to deepen your understanding of the ‘8 Basic Habits that Healthy People Do’ and want to connect with a community of like-minded women, I warmly invite you to join our free Facebook group, ‘8 Basic Habits that Women in Midlife Do’.

In this group, we expand on the habits discussed today, sharing experiences, offering support, and celebrating our health journeys together. It’s a space where you can feel understood and encouraged.

To join, simply click the link in our show notes. Let’s support and inspire each other in our quest for better health. See you in the group!

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