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Friday, 25 April 2008

Weighing In

[EDITORIAL NOTE: There are a couple of stories about mothers in the hopper and as U.S. Mothers' Day is coming up on 11 May (I don't know if other countries celebrate it), I am saving them until the week preceding the Sunday holiday. If others would like to send "mother stories", I'll publish a week or so of them all at once. Deadline for submission is Friday, 2 May.]

By Celia Jones

Weight watching has become a religion to me. Most of my life, I’ve been having problems with my fluctuating weight. Rationally, now that I’m in my 50s, I think that I should be happy with my self-image and age gracefully; I shouldn’t expect to have the same body as when I was in my 20s. It’s not like I’m obese or anything, but I certainly am much ‘fluffier’ than a few years ago.

“Fluffy” is a word my sister uses to describe herself. I come from a family of heavyweights. My mother was always fat; when I was a young child, I loved cuddling her soft body and was a bit fearful of very thin women whose boniness made them look severe. However, when I was a teenager, I felt ashamed of my mother and envied the kids who had thin mothers.

All my aunts were fat, and one aunt was over 300 pounds! My cousin had always been really thin until she hit her thirties. She started putting on a little weight at first, which seemed to snowball so quickly until her cute little self was lost in a mountain of flesh.

When my little granddaughter recently said to me, “Nana, you’re a little bit fat,” I panicked. I knew I had gained a few pounds, but the reality that even a child could see my increasing girth was disconcerting. I felt on the slippery slide towards “obesity”, membership into “The Fat Club.”

How could this be happening to me? I used to be so self-disciplined about my eating habits until I retired and “let myself go”. Fat! People associate fat people with losers. But the worst thing is that being fat is that it makes you either invisible or a large target of cruel jokes, sometimes right within your hearing like: “Yo mama's so fat, when she steps on a scale, it says: ‘One at a time, please!’”

I could see a life ahead where my ever- increasing weight would keep me from going swimming at the beach, horseback and bike-riding.

It was time for a new regime, starting with daily weigh-ins. No jockey has ever had such scrupulous supervision over their weight. Specific conditions have to be adhered to for the “weighing in”: bladder has to be emptied; no food to have passed my lips in at least eight hours and no clothes whatsoever.

Yesterday was a particularly disconcerting day for me. It started with the moment of truth - the first weigh-in for the day! I became very excited as it looked like I had lost a pound, but when I stepped off the scales, the dial went to the left of zero - reading, too light. I bent down to carefully re-adjust the scales so it was smack on the zero before I got on again.

The second try brought disappointment because now the scales read one pound heavier, putting me further on the road from slightly overweight to obesity. I frenetically stepped on and off the scales, trying to coax a lower reading out of the damn thing and getting a different figure each time.

This was payback time for my comfort-eating binge last night where I nearly emptied a full tub of ice cream. I absolutely had to have several of my sister’s home-made choc-chip cookies that I sneakily shoved in my mouth.

Why can’t I control these urges? I resolve every night that I’ll show restraint the next day, but it doesn’t work. Things start to get serious when my husband makes oblique comments about my weight for the first time in our marriage. Childishly, I sometimes wonder that if my husband doesn’t see me eating these things, I wouldn’t really gain weight. Sort of like “If a tree falls in the forest with no one around, does it make a sound?”

Mistrustful of the capricious readings of my two usual scales, I went in search of a second set of scales that I got years ago as a wedding present. I dashed naked into the laundry, frightening the cat sleeping peacefully on the floor, and ferreted around the cupboard until I found the dusty old scales.

I sat it down on the cold floor and stepped gingerly on the scales. It told me I weighed twelve and a half pounds less than the other ones. I liked that and wanted to believe I’d actually lost weight. But, I knew deep in my heart that it just couldn’t be right. This set of scales didn’t work at all, but I rationalized all this activity playing musical scales had used up a few calories.

Feeling disconsolate again, I took myself off to the gym for some good hammering and flogging of my recalcitrant body. The gym’s scales were inside the entrance, near the cafe. They were electronic and wouldn’t lie; there was no dial adjustment required.

I tried to fool it by holding my stomach in and standing on one leg, but it showed my weight as FIVE pounds more than the weight on my scales at home. The worst part was that the figure displayed stayed lit even after you stepped off, so, the next person, usually a spunky young body builder, could clearly see how much the last fat ‘boomba’ weighed!

A thick adipose coat was going to soon dissipate whatever self-esteem I ever had as a teacher, freelance writer, and amateur actress. I would become just the fat old lady over there. I tried to rationalize that the extra pounds must have come from my clothes, sneakers and breakfast, but I hit the hellish cardio machines in the vain hope of burning the fat in one session.

A few minutes, it was time for my dreaded pump class. A woman wearing a skimpy, open-backed top and Lycra pedal pushers glided into the room late and positioned herself at the front of the room, close to the instructor. She didn’t need a warm-up like the rest of us. No puny little five-pound weights for her. I watched in awe as she dramatically piled on the 10 and 15 pound weights on the barbell, which she effortlessly lifted.

Her smooth, olive-skinned back cast a sheen, like it had been oiled. When she turned to check herself out in the side mirrors, I saw her long oval-shaped face with startling blue eyes, framed by curly, black hair, and tied in a bushy ponytail. I hated her self-confidence and comfort she felt with her body. She lunged, pushed up and tricep-dipped without once tiring, while I had to lighten my two-pound barbells halfway through the exercises, and even then, I ran out of steam.

What kept me going, however, was the thought of burning off those pounds. I had stretched, strained and pummelled my body to ear-splitting music and Nazi-like exhortations by the instructors: “Hold your tummy in! Now SQUEEZE! Keep going! Nearly there. Now, don’t forget to BREATHE!”

Leaving class exhausted, I staggered over to the scales again to check how much weight I had lost, hoping the body builder working near the scales had moved to another part of the gym. Stepping gingerly on the scales and holding my breath, the numbers lit up, low at first, and then settled on the final figure - a gain of another two pounds!

All that work only to gain two pounds! Was it the water I drank in the pump class? It couldn’t be the large chocolate shake and cheesecake I got at the gym’s café. Oh, I know what it is; they say that muscle weighs more than fat, so I probably put on some muscle. Anyway, I’m not fat, maybe a little gravitationally challenged, but I’m beautiful in my own chubby way.

Then, “that woman” from the pump class glided by with smile on her face. I waved to her, but she didn’t acknowledge me. To her, I was invisible, just another fat woman. It hurt when she looked right through me.
That’s it; I get it now! I knew what I had to do. Exhausted and depressed from the day’s trials, I went home. It gave me great joy to throw out all my scales before sitting down in my favorite recliner and defiantly devouring the chocolate fudge I bought on the way home from the gym.

Now, this is the way to live! THE END

[If you would like to contribute to The Elder Storytelling Place, the guidelines are here. We would all be pleased to read your stories.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Hooray! Oh I was so afraid when I started reading this that it would end with you losing 100 lbs. Instead this was one of those realistic stories and I could certainly relate. You told it very well and I feel appropriately invisible and comforted.

I look in the mirror and I can see the extra weight, and feel it in the pants that are too tight now. But then I think "I'm 67, who cares if I have a few extra pounds?" I have reached the time of life where the enjoyment of what I eat is more important than being thin again.


Over the years I have seen so many friends start a strict diet and exercise program.

Most lose weight and looked terrific for awhile then slowly put it all back on. My husband will say,"Oh, did you see Doris? She has begun to get heavy again. I wonder what happened?"

I answer, "Oh, she probably did something foolish like have a bite to eat."

My vast experience with diets is that after I've been skinny for a while I gain it all back, and then some. I gave up dieting and threw away my scale and I've been a happier, softer (in all ways) person since.

I loved reading your story!

I like travelinoma's "softer in all ways" attitude. If your weight causes harm to your health, by all means excercise and eat moderately. If it is a battle with the scales or a vanity contest with "those" women in our lives walking by us as if we are invisible, just disregard them. I'm counting on those ornery Irish genes flowing through my blood as my strategy to a long and healthy life. I've given up on fad diets, social norms, or media expectations... I step on the scales twice a year when I go to my gynecologist, that's it.

Wonderful story that can teach us all about the need soften our resolve or desperation.

What a wonderful story Celia. I can really relate to it. I have been on a yoyocoaster with my weight all my life as well. Not 'obese', but uncomfortable in my skin. I always envied the the girlfriends who could walk into a clothing store and look great in anything they put on. But like a really good wine, I have mellowed with age and don't feel threatened by the few extra curves,which wobble when I walk, but still I hold my head up high and know who I am.

Oh! I laughed til I cried! I wasn't aware that we are related, but I think I'm your once-skinny, now fat cousin! I could identify all the way through. Great story...thanks for sharing it.

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