Weight is one of the – well, weightier - problems of getting older, and thank god for elastic waistbands. By the time I finished menopause a decade ago, my waist had thickened to the circumference of my hips and there was no longer any such thing as pants or a skirt that could be zipped and buttoned if it also fit my hips.
Unwilling to inflict my extra flesh on the outside world, I became a master of camouflage. Jackets and dusters over elegant, loose sweaters or big, dress-down teeshirts hid my lack of a waist. I chose heavier fabrics that don’t cling to the body too and fortunately, the color black is never out of style. If I intended to exercise my waistline down to a cuter size well, I never got around to it.
When I quit smoking nearly seven months ago, I knew I would pack on even more pounds. But I figured going tobacco-less was healthier even with some extra weight and, I believed, I could diet off the fat when I felt certain of my non-smoking status.
What I have been careful of, very careful of, in the intervening months, is to avoid looking in the mirror when I get out of the shower. Me naked with 40 more pounds than I weighed at age 40, or even 25, I knew would not be a pretty picture. And I never slipped up once, never caught myself even out of the corner of my eye, in that mirror. Until this morning.
Oh – my – god. Every nightmare I ever had, pre-menopause, of what I might look like if I ever stopped dieting has come true.
It’s not quite what I said above about never getting around to losing the first batch of weight I gained in menopause. I never really tried. I’d gone on a diet when I got chubby at puberty and had counted every forkful that went into my mouth for the next 30-odd years. So when middle age made losing those extra pounds a lot more difficult than it had been in the past, I said to hell with it - I wonder what it feels like to eat what I want without thinking about what it will do to my figure.
And it was fun. There is so much good food in the world. Haute cuisine French, Chinese dim sum on Sunday mornings, steak at Peter Luger’s. Cones ice cream and Murray’s Cheese shop on Bleecker Street. Rafetto’s fresh-made pasta and sauces. I’ve eaten it all and so much more.
And now it’s time to stop. No Atkins or South Beach for me. I believe they are nutritionally dangerous and there is only one way to lose weight anyway: take in fewer calories than your body uses. Up the exercise and reduce the amount of food.
It’s not necessary that my body looks like it did when I was 25, but I don’t ever want to see again what I saw in the mirror this morning. There’s a skinny old lady in here somewhere and I think I can find her in about six months if I’m diligent.