The Quest for Healthy Living

Victory Meals waiting for me on my front porch. January 2013.

Throughout my adult life, I’ve struggled to balance exercise and food. Typically, I’ve done intensive exercise for about two hours a day. I’d try to eat healthfully—lean protein, steamed vegetables, whole grains—and I’d starve.

I’d manage the starvation for a few weeks, during which I’d obsess about food and feel exhausted. Finally, desperate for calories, my willpower would crumble and I’d overeat on pizza, cookies, bread, chocolate, and cheese.

I went to a nutritionist-trainer and followed his guidelines for a bit, but his cookie-cutter program didn’t work for me. Most of his clients don’t exercise as much as I do.

I just couldn’t figure it out.

So, last fall, I decided to reset to baseline. I kept running, but I pulled back my mileage and intensity. I cut out other exercise. I ate what I wanted.

And once I felt less desperately hungry and my body’s kinks shook out, I tried a new tack.


When I’m tired, I’m hungry—and never for the good stuff. Curious, I experimented with sleeping as much as my body wanted and taking note.

Clearly, I’d underestimated how much sleep I need. I guzzle down eight or nine hours a night easily. New focus: Sleep my fill.


I love to exercise. I’d rather eat junk to fuel an increased ability to exercise (and I have). However, you can always eat more junk than you can possibly work out of your system.

Therefore, I’m practicing exercise moderation: No more than one hour of intense exercise a day: boxing, intervals, weights, running. Walking the dog, biking around town, and suchlike don’t count in that total. Also, I try to take one exercise-free rest day each week.


A few years back, a friend of mine got lean and fit. One of his tools: Victory Meals. After another exhausting cycle of overeating after starving, I called the company to learn about the program.

Amazing. Victory Meals serves gourmet feasts, not at all like “fitness” food providers that give you a pile of mushy zucchini and tasteless, chewy protein. Each dish seems like what I’d get in a restaurant—including generous portion sizes. The meals are prepared by a chef from the Culinary Institute of America following the nutritional guidelines of the Victory Meals founder, a Ph.D. dietician.

Victory Meals prepares food each day and delivers it to you in cooler bags for the following day. I don’t select the meals from a menu—I get what’s fresh. I worried I’d dislike something or get bored, but after a month on the program, that hasn’t happened. (They occasionally cook up a few more carrots than I like, but one carrot is too many carrots for me.)

I get three meals a day with three snacks. You can order less food, yet as I’m a single girl and cooking for one doesn’t excite me, the full-week program is perfect. And if I have a business lunch or dinner, I have an extra meal for the weekend.

Fantastically, I can eat as much as I want of the fresh, unprocessed food Victory Meals serves. No sugar, no refined flours, no dairy, no salt. Instead, I get protein, vegetables, and unrefined carbohydrates and starches, including beans, brown rice, barley, sweet potatoes, and millet.

The food tastes so delicious that I don’t notice what it doesn’t include. I even purchased the Victory Meals recipe book with its spice blends for weekend cooking.

One final change: I focus on eating slowly and enjoying each bite. In the past, I’d charge through meals—often because I went into them so hungry. I’d eat, but I didn’t savor.

Results So Far

I feel amazing. My mood has elevated from “grumpy” to “bouncy.” Mentally, I’m more alert and creative and elastic. I’ve had one strong workout after another. My body doesn't ache anymore.

People keep telling me I look great, though none can put a finger on why. One friend told me I seemed to “glow.” Note: I’d told no one about my new sleeping, exercising, and eating program.

Have I lost weight? Scales throw me into a downward spiral of obsessiveness about numbers that always backfires, so I haven’t been on one in months. Yet my clothes do fit better. And the owner of my gym said I looked leaner. He warned that I’d “better not get too waifish on him.”

Good stuff.

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Reader Comments (6)

First the praise.

Just when you think you've reached the zenith of Leslie Farnsworth awesomeness you find an elevator to going up to even more awesomeness with a penthouse restaurant and observation lounge to boot. Where most people would be pleased to reach your level of fitness you are always seeking a way to tweak it and climb to that next level. The true mark of a champion.

Then the worry.

I must admit the first part of this post concerned me. People try to do such extreme things at times and some have unrealistic expectations. The word "diet" entered the popular lexicon 40 odd years ago as a magic word that could fix your health problems in 30 days or less when it should really stand as a redefinition of eating habits for the balance of a lifetime. Exercise can also become an addiction.

and then the assessment.

I am happy that you have laid out specific goals that you want to meet and that you've tweaked your habits both eating and exercise wise to meet your goals. Keep going but always make sure to self assess at regular intervals. The main thing is that you are happy.

Always remember that Leslie is more than the physical and that all of this is aimed at making her happy. It should never be the end goal.

February 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Pora

Could I get a photocopy of the book?

February 3, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

Slowing down to actually chew my food properly has helped me so much. Like you, I'd get so hungry that I'd scarf down way too much food. I noticed when I would actually concentrate on chewing, making sure I took normal bites (instead of shoveling all I can in my mouth) & slowly chewing, I would eat less & feel more full. "They" say it takes 20 minutes for the food you eat to make its way through your body & make you feel full, so I also try to make sure that if after I eat something I still feel hungry, I wait at least 20 minutes before I eat anything else. More often than not, after 20 minutes, I won't feel hungry.

I really only have 1, maybe 2 nights per week where I actually have time to cook a meal. I wish programs like Victory Meals offered vegetarian & vegan options. I'd sign up in a NY minute!

February 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErin

Worry! There is no worry, Will! You are sweet, though. What I meant to say was that I am eating better and exercising more smartly than I was before--AND getting sufficient sleep! You should have been worried BEFORE. I'm all good now. :)

Rebecca, I'll bring the cookbook when we get together next. It is SO worth buying, because it comes with a bevy of spice mixes--great value!--and without the spice mixes, the recipes won't come together as well. Love to show you! The food has been fantastic. Had chicken and rice stir fry with this really vibrant garlic sauce tonight. YUM.

And Erin, spot on about the twenty-minute rule! I forgot to mention that one. When I'm hungry after eating, I try to drink a full glass of water and THEN see how I feel. If I'm still hungry, an apple typically works. And as for Victory Meals having vegetarian meals, I do know that at least one or two options they've served have been vegan! But I do know what you mean--most of the meals aren't.

February 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

You go girl!!
As soon as these darn ribs allow me back to my intensive exercise I will be so glad. I hate being stuck not doing my workouts. My mood is definitely 'grumpy' and 'exhausted' since I've had to scale back.
Can't wait to get back into it!
Super pleased for you! Way to go!

April 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Thank you so much, Sarah! People think of working out as a weight-loss chore, but I just care about how great it makes me feel. :)

April 11, 2013 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

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