The Survivor Diet

Right off the bat, I have to tell you that the headline is a lie.  I just thought it had a nice ring to it.  But in reality, there is no such thing as a Survivor Diet.  How to loose weight by not eating anything but moldy rice and pond scum?  That’s bullshit.  But more than that, it’s unhealthy.  So by now you’re wondering “what the hell is this article about then?”  It’s about how watching people wither away on an island led me to a greater understanding of myself, my body and my goals.

I know this sounds strange.  Let me set the scene:  It’s the year 2000, I’m an overweight TV-loving junior in high school, just beginning my journey towards health and fitness.  Now, while I was always a big girl, it didn’t mean I wasn’t active. Sports ignited my competitive nature, but I hid behind my size, hanging back on defense. I was clearly not the fastest person on the field, so I did what I could to minimize my running while not being afraid to throw my weight around.  Needless to say, this was not the most effective strategy to become the pillar of health.

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Enter Survivor.  A game show.  In Borneo.  Sold.  Now, I’m not a camper, the outdoors aspect of the show was completely lost on me – aside from it being a picturesque backdrop, the fact that they were living in the sand and eating rats was a cool sidebar to the real appeal.  What drew me in, and what continues to hold my attention 17 years later, were the challenges.  The games within the game.  They were climbing, problem solving, digging, swimming, lifting… it looked like so much fun.  I wanted to do that.   Then it hit me in the face like a wet fish – I couldn’t.  At my current fitness level I may have been able to, on a good day, keep up with the undernourished 60 year olds out there. I was 16. HOLY FUCK.  It was time to make some changes.

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So this is when I began my Survivor Diet. The motivation I didn’t realized I needed had arrived.  The best part, though, was that I had found a goal that was reasonable and maintainable.  I wasn’t trying to drop hundreds of pounds overnight or look like a bikini model.  I was just wanting to get my cardio up to a point where I could run around for a solid half an hour until my team won immunity.  My arms needed to be strong enough to carry a weighted bag of puzzle pieces across a field.  My legs had to be able to push a heavy crate up a ramp.  I needed balance to fly over a beam to reach the mat.  Workouts went from punishment to fuel – “will this help me if I’m ever on Survivor?”  If the answer is yes, push harder.  If the answer is no, find a different workout you enjoy doing more.  And my relationship with food changed.  Nothing drastic, no fad diets (because I don’t have the willpower for a restrictive diet, trust me.  That shit is over the second I see a slurpee).  I cleaned out some of the unnecessary crap, but mostly I just watched my portion sizes for the first time ever.  If the people on Survivor can still preform these challenges while ridiculously malnourished, I could do it on half a Subway sandwich instead of a whole foot long.

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In hindsight, I guess this was more of my Survivor Lifestyle Change.  Over time, it did lead me to loose 80 pounds (some of which have come back, but the majority of them are still out there on an island somewhere), but the self awareness and the body positivity that came with it was more important. I still do all of this today – it’s so engrained in my daily life that I crave it when I take a day off.  Even at my smallest, I was still a larger girl.  This is not one of those blogs where the before and after photos show a dramatic weight loss that makes it look like old me could eat the new me.  But my body composition had changed.  Things are in much better proportion, I have a cute little waist I didn’t know had been hiding under there, I can see muscle definition when I flex.  And I feel fucking fantastic.

Now I watch Survivor with the confidence that I could go out there and at least be competitive in the challenges.  I will never be cast as the girl who always has to sit out when my tribe has more members than the other.  The ironic thing is that, while I give full credit to Survivor for being the catalyst for me to improve my quality of life and my relationship with my body, it’s still not the show I’d die to be on.  So much dirt, the bugs, the eating crap… and the balance.  I’ve been working on that skill for years and it’s still eluding me.  I’m most likely to be airlifted off the show for medical reasons on like day 10, after I’ve fallen while trying to walk along a slippery path, or had a comical allergic reaction to some exotic creature that no one is supposed to be allergic to.  The time in between the challenges, I’d be a flaming hot mess.  But those challenges….

Thank you Survivor 🙂



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