- Weight Loss -

Big Band, Bad Diets

What do you and I have in common with the legendary, Duke Ellington? A lot more than a sentimental mood.

Duke Ellington

He was a talented musician and creative force and known for his dapper dress, but something you probably don’t know about Duke Ellington: He wore a corset. Like most people, and very many celebrities, it seems Duke had a heightened concern and self-awareness about how he looked.

It is also noted in Terry Treachout’s biography, Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, that he struggled with his weight.

“Duke, who is always worrying about keeping his weight down, may announce that he intends to have nothing but Shredded Wheat and black tea. … Duke’s resolution about not overeating frequently collapses at this point.”

That story has a familiar ring, doesn’t it?

It’s true there have been, and continue to be, a lot of fad diets and old school rules to weight loss. If you’re like Duke Ellington and have tried any of them, you’ve probably figured out that most of them are bunk and just leave you demoralized, leading you to making not-so good-for-you eating choices and hating yourself for it.

I’ve never been all that concerned with losing weight — even a few years ago when I was 30 pounds heavier than I am now — yet I’ve experienced this vicious cycle while trying to make changes in my life.

People ask me what I did to drop 30 pounds in two years and there was no magic to it. It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t the focus of the change I wanted to make. I wanted to simply find — and live — a healthier, more joyful life.

I didn’t follow any of the old-school prescriptions for losing weight. What I did was buy a bicycle and use it as much as possible to get from place to place and pass the time. Riding a bike is one of the things that brings me the most pleasure in life. My vintage Raleigh, Sir Walter, has had a starring role in many of my adventures over the past three years.


As someone who really doesn’t like indoor workouts, circuits, squats, and that sort of thing, it was amazing that I somehow rediscovered lifting weights. But, it’s like Ellington said: “It don’t mean a thing (if it ain’t got that swing)” and it’s kettlebells that truly keep me in the swing of lifting.

I also made a few changes to my diet. I stopped eating processed foods for the most part (except potato chips — I just can’t seem to give those up!) and began experimenting with cooking. I used to drink soy milk, too, but after learning what’s in that stuff, I pretty much avoid any soy-based products now. I still eat some tofu or tempeh in a stir-fry occasionally.

I also worked on finding a cure for my insomnia. I visit an acupuncturist a few times a year now to help with this. (It started out as a few times a week and month.) My acupuncturist also helped me figure out which nutrients I was deficient in. It was quite a list. I’ve been surprised at just how much what I eat and drink impacts my sleep. Also, I was able to figure out my sleeping cycle. Talk about a revelation!

I guess my “secret” has been more physical activity, more sleep, and more home-cooked meals. Really, though, I’d say that feeling better has led me to feel happier about who I am, which has been the biggest gain of all.

So, if you’re interested in dropping a few pounds, and keeping them off, trying these five strategies might help. But, I think the biggest key to success is figuring out what — and who — brings you joy. Do those things. Spend time with those people. You’re bound to have more energy and support to reach any goal you might have.

Do you have a fitness milestone, weight loss or other story of healthy change you’d like to tell? We’d love to hear it! Share it on our “How I Did It” blog.

is the Community Engagement Specialist for Experience Life.

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