Gisele Bündchen opens up about her life-changing diet
IN HER NEW BOOK, THE MODEL TALKS ABOUT HER LIFE-CHANGING DIET
Ifeel I have to address something, but I’ll do it fast, because it makes me uncomfortable. I’ve been told that many women wish they had a body like mine. I also know that many people are curious about my diet. I must admit that I find all of this a bit strange. There are many things I really like about my body – I’m naturally athletic and proud of it – and many things I dislike, including my shoulders, which to date I’ve dislocated about nine times each.
Many women have said to me that they wish they were as tall as I am. My height in the end turned out to be a big advantage (modelling! volleyball!), but it wasn’t my choice to top out at five foot 11[180cm]. Especially when just trying to fit in as a teenager, it’s hard to be unnoticed when you’re a foot taller than most of your friends. The body I have is the one I was given – remember four of my sisters are about a head shorter than I am – and all the kale and coconut milk in the world won’t make them taller. A lot of people seem to be under the impression that I follow a special diet or a special exercise plan in order to look a certain way.
The truth is when I was younger I didn’t have to do very much to keep my body fit. I’m a model after all, and my natural body type is leaner, with smaller bones. But at 38 years old, my metabolism has slowed, and today, I’m very thoughtful about what I eat. I have a healthy diet and I exercise daily for a simple reason – so I can feel good.
Remember the anxiety attacks I wrote about earlier? They were an incredibly motivating force in my life. If you’ve ever had one, you’ll understand that you never want to experience another. My panic attacks were much more motivating than any pleasure I might have from standing in front of the mirror.
I know that there is a lot of confusion about what people should and shouldn’t eat. The internet, in particular, is a mishmash of information, a lot of it contradictory and confusing. Remember when eggs were great for you, but then they were terrible, and now they’re great again? Who knows what to believe? In the face of, ‘Eat this, drink that – no, wait. Don’t! Wait! Do!,’ it’s little wonder a lot of people throw up their hands.
If all the experts seem to disagree about what’s healthy and what isn’t, we all just might as well eat pizza, hamburgers, ribs, bacon, chicken nuggets, ice-cream, carbonated sodas, chocolate bars and macaroni and cheese. Life is short, why not spend it eating whatever we want? The thing is, we don’t simply risk having a short life if we don’t pay attention to what we put in our bodies, we become vulnerable to illness and unhappiness.
My panic attacks completely transformed the way I ate. The first change I made was to cut sugar out of my diet for three months. That wasn’t easy. My 90-day no-sugar fast ended in July, right around my birthday. (I was born under the sign of Cancer, and we crabs like our food.) I remember showing up at a studio to discover that some nice person had brought me a small chocolate birthday cake (my favourite). I wasn’t planning to reintroduce sugar into my life, but the gesture was so thoughtful that I didn’t want to be rude.
When I ate a small slice – the first sugar of any kind I’d eaten in three months – I felt sick and disoriented. I could hardly focus for the rest of the day. My doctor had reminded me that sugar was in bread, pasta, juice, crackers, cereal, granola bars, sodas and energy drinks – most processed foods contain a lot of added sugar. No wonder kids bounce off the walls when they eat a high-sugar diet. After my sugar cleanse one little slice of cake made me so hyper! The episode really showed me how bad this kind of sugar is for me.
Even after cutting out all types of sugar, caffeine and alcohol from my diet, it wasn’t until Benny [my son] was born that I began eating the way I do today. The knowledge that everything I ate or drank was passed to my baby through my breast milk, affecting his health, immune system and energy, pushed me to refine my habits even more. I was no longer eating for just myself.
For a while I got a little obsessed with the nutritional content of my food, though I have relaxed about it over time. (I will be the first person to admit that over-thinking what you eat is almost as bad as not thinking about it at all.) Once I began making healthy changes to my diet, the rest of my family came along.
Making nutritional changes happens at a different pace for everyone. I’ve noticed this with my family in Brazil – my mum, dad, sisters and their families. Once a year we all come together for a family reunion, where the cousins can play and keep nourishing their relationships. We usually meet in Costa Rica.
For years I provided healthy food options. At first there were just a few complaints. Some family members used to go to the local supermarket to buy ‘extras’, so they wouldn’t be deprived of their favourite snacks and soft drinks. This used to upset me. For only 10 days, couldn’t we all just eat healthy food? Please? But slowly, as the years passed, and the family reunions continued, first some, then others, began changing their dietary habits, and today most of my family members are aware of what they eat, and how much better they feel when they eat healthy foods.
Today I’m so happy to see my sisters and their children eating good-quality foods. At this point, we are constantly exchanging healthy recipes on our Whatsapp group. We also share natural remedies and health tips. These days when we all meet up, there are no more complaints about the food and everybody is actually excited about the menu!
When choosing what to eat, I think about energy and balance. By energy I mean maintaining my vitality, so that I can be my best, both for the people around me, and for the work I want or need to do. This doesn’t just mean performing well – but also feeling healthy and thinking clearly. This process requires self-awareness. Will a particular vegetable, piece of fruit, cut of meat or dessert give me the energy I need and want, or will it make me feel tired and depleted?
In my early 20s, when I barely ever thought about what I ate, I would usually eat a cheeseburger and French fries for lunch and a big bowl of pasta with cheese for dinner. Afterward, the only thing I felt like doing was curling up in a ball and falling asleep. To bring my vitality up after a meal, I’d drink a cup of coffee with lots of sugar, and when the caffeine wore off, I’d have a second one or maybe a third. After so much caffeine, I would start to fall apart both physically and emotionally. Now I’m aware that I simply can’t afford to feel tired or dopey, much less anxious or crazed. Time is in short supply, and I hate wasting any of it. If I eat poorly then I expend a lot of energy just trying to feel normal again. Why go there if I don’t have to?
As far as balance is concerned, Tom and I both live by the old saying, ‘Moderation in all things.’ My husband likes to say, ‘Too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing – and too much of a bad thing is just plain bad.’ When you think about it, too much of anything,
ON SPECIAL OCCASIONS, I MIGHT HAVE A SMALL PIECE OF CAKE