A Question Only Elders Can Answer
Gay and Gray: The Book

Of Age, Fat and the Speed of Time

category_bug_journal2.gif They tell us there is an obesity epidemic and it is hard to deny. There weren’t many skinny types at the farmer’s market yesterday morning, nor 30 minutes later at the supermarket as I did my weekly shopping. A good-sized majority was, to be charitable, chubby and I’m one of them. Friends kindly tell me I’m not fat, but they’re wrong; I’m just good at camouflage.

As is true for many women, the pounds magically piled on during menopause without any effort on my part. I ate as I always had and clothes got tighter until they had to be replaced with larger sizes. Years passed and by the time I thought it would be a good idea to pare down the ol’ bod a bit – something I had done many times during my mid-years to eliminate the annoying ten pounds that repeatedly asserted themselves – I couldn’t find the desire to do it.

I’d maintained my fairly svelte figure from puberty onward by counting every forkful that went into my mouth. But after menopause, I discovered I no longer had the diligence to do the math. I had come to enjoy eating anything I wanted without guilt and owning no full-length mirror makes it easy.

And so it went. Until now.

In the middle of a night in May, I woke to searing pain in my lower back, like someone was repeatedly stabbing me with a knife. It was excruciating and I bit the pillow to keep from screaming. “Recovery,” since then, has been a constant but dull ache, tolerable most of the time unless I sit for too long.

I got to thinking that the back pain could be connected to the extra weight I’ve been hauling around – a lot more than those ten pesky pounds of yore. It might also have something to do with the huffing and puffing I’d been experiencing in recent months climbing the one flight of stairs to my apartment. Visions of lifelong pain and oxygen tanks are strong motivators, so I dredged up memories of long-ago weight control efforts and got to work.

It’s not hard. Whole grains, skim milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, a small piece of fish or skinless chicken two or three meals a week. You know, like one ought to eat all the time.

On Fridays, to assuage the enormous sweet tooth that helped get my body where it is today, I replace one meal with whatever “bad” food I’ve been craving – usually ice cream or a piece of excellent cheese. It is necessary to limit these to the same day once a week because moderation in them is not a concept I understand: a serving of ice cream is a pint.

Already, I’ve had to ditch a pair of pants that was sliding down my hips and here’s the best part: my two physical ailments are vastly improved: the back pain isn’t gone, but I can feel it diminishing almost by the day and I am nearly skipping up that flight of stairs in the past ten days or so. Amazing, considering that I'm nowhere near, yet, the amount of weight I want to drop.

The second best part is that I’ve hardly noticed I’ve been doing this for five or six weeks. In my younger years, I was known to check the bathroom scale two, three and more times a day hoping for another half pound to be gone, and it seemed like it took eons to lose ten.

Not having a scale now removes the disappointment when the needle refuses to budge, but I think something else is at work that makes weight loss easier than it’s ever been: time.

There is hardly an old person alive who does not complain about how fast time flies. I fill up two weeks’ worth of the little vitamin dispenser and when it’s empty, I’d swear I filled it yesterday. When the dreaded colonoscopy was scheduled a comfortable month in advance, suddenly it was the day before. And every one of you knows that when you wake up tomorrow, it will be Christmas.

But as irritating as it to have time speeding by, it has now become an advantage – using one affliction of old age (the speed of time) to defeat the frustrations of correcting another (excess weight).

If you had asked me before I began writing this blog post (which required me to recall how long I’ve been eating this way), I would have said about two weeks. It doesn’t feel any longer than that, but it’s been five or six weeks and could be seven - which more reasonably accounts for those pants falling off.

Using the speed of time this way is a remarkable discovery, and I’m hard at work figuring how else I can apply it. Any ideas?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Darlene Costner strings together a lifetime of little stories that is definitely For the Birds.]


Wonderful! I have some of the same problems, except that for me, it's mostly my arthritic knees objecting to the extra pounds. You've inspired me to try again to lose weight. I agree about the quick passage of time.

...and the day after Christmas is the fourth of July.

Twice in my life I have been to Weight Watchers to get me on the right track when things got out of hand. Now I just eat healthily and sensibly (most of the time)and it seems to work, although I would always like to lose the extra 7lbs.
As for time I swear every other day is Friday:)
I'm convinced it is worth being vigilant about weight -not so much for vanity as good health.

I remember how my waist expanded during my 40's and I had not changed my eating or activity lifestyle one twit, yet, the pounds just piled on. I was so bewildered. Then, like you, I had some very painful back problems which motivated me to begin to exercise and lose the pudge and strengthen the back muscles. The process worked because I have no back problems today. I find that variety is the spice of life in terms of exercise and I vary weights, pilates, yoga, walking, bicyling and aerobics to keep me motivated. Just don't give up or give in and remember it is a lifetime commitment and backsliding is no excuse to quit.

Many of us who are diabetics use a concept we call PC, which does not stand for Personal Computer or Political Correctness, but for Portion Control. All the noise out there about diets all comes down to a simple fact: eat less. Take in fewer calories. Exercise is important as it can not only burn a few calories, but can keep our metabolism up.

I wish everyone well, as weight loss is very hard work. But it can be done. And it pays huge dividends. Avoidance of weight-related diabetes is one of those dividends.

This is an inspiring story. It is hard to lose weight, no matter what your age.

This is a subject I dislike because it dredges up a whole lot of guilt. At least once a week I get on the scales in the morning and promise my self that I will lose that 10 to 15 pounds that I'm hauling around. That lasts as far as the kitchen.

I just don't have the discipline to follow through longer than 5 days tops. I admit it; I'm weak. I guess my bad back or knee haven't motivated me enough. They give me lots of pain but not the excruciating kind you describe, Ronni. Maybe one day -----.

your post is right on the mark for me. am not obese but definitely in need of "spread control." there's the pair of shorts from the 1988s mmarked size 16 but much tighter than 16-size pants bought in this century.

and yes, some of the "solutions," especially if your goals sit squarely within the reality of being elder, are not so hard to achieve.

My wife, Elyn, has been on an allergy reduction diet for several months now and the results are dramatic—over 35 pounds lighter. The reward is better health and a whole new wardrobe!

I'll show her your post.

Great post and sounds like you are going at the weight loss the right way. I find summers are better for me to lose weight as I am more active with chores outside. My problem comes when fall arrives and holidays. Like you I have had concerns about losing some weight mostly because it's around my waist and it never used to be. That is the weight they say will cause heart problems which run in my family. So I am also trying to use more self control.

I've had a weight problem since childhood and have been on so many diets that I can't recall how many! The answer for me is not so much eating as being physically active. I tend to be sedentary and that's my downfall.

Eat less, move more. I keep telling myself to get out and walk, to join a gym, to get with an exercise class, but somehow a month, a year slide by and I've not done anything about it. I suppose it's going to take backaches, bad knees, and extreme huffing and puffing to get me moving.

I've used time to get past the bad periods in my life. "This too shall pass" has been my mantra. And time does pass, so swiftly that I wake up one morning and suddenly realize that things *are* better.

A wonderful 67 degrees at 5:30 this morning in my garden. So I am late checking in.
Hate to write this - but I am opposite of all of you.
I have difficulty gaining weight.
Would like 5 to 8 lbs on me. I eat like you said we should eat. But have candy and coke float almost daily and several times a week drink an Ensure between meals. Always bake something once a week.
But then as my children point out my portions are small and healthy and I am never still.
So we are all working at something.
It was just Spring, school is starting for grandchildren
Then Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yes, time you are moving to quickly

There is no 'obesity epidemic'.

But there is a massive (cash cow) industry promoting this non-existent epidemic, to wit:

bariatric surgery
diet counseling (professional)
diet drugs (prescription)
special order diet foods
health clubs (this may be the only 'good thing' on this list)
And of course the ever present woo-practitioners (did you know that ancient knowledge of herbs can cure anything? This, folks, is a multi-million, possibly billion dollar industry TOO).

When I was a kid there were plenty of fat women around, most of whom were beyond menopause. But there were plenty of 'big boned' girls around too. Nobody thought anything of it, nobody made fun of it, or thought they were 'unhealthy'. In point of fact, FAT was considered healthy! Women who were too 'skinny' were looked on as 'poor unhealthy things'. A lack of appetite was considered sickly.

Sure, in the upper reaches of society, 'skinny has always been in', but for the rest of us peasant slobs, that was never true.

I think it is a manufactured epidemic. Just like the one that suggests we should 'all' take statin drugs, happy pills, etc.

Go look at the 'junkfoodscience' blogspot (google it). The woman who writes it makes some cogent arguments.

I have always been blessed to have taken after my dad! Like him, I am tall and always on the thin side.

Since I turned 50, my body is less forgiving and I sag (and ache) in places where I didn't even know I had places and getting back in shape after periods of sloth is more difficult.

ElderExercise is helping a lot! I'm delighted that Claude and Naomi started it.

In terms of activity, find something you like to do--and do it. For some people it will be gardening, riding a bike, walking... Just get yourself moving. Signing up for something you dislike doing doesn't make sense.

Ronni, one of the things I enjoy most about your personal posts is that you truly know how to find happiness at the speed of time. Converting a serious back-ache to weight loss in the blink of an eye is a great example of this. If you write a book called "Finding Happiness at the Speed of Time," I expect an acknowledgment!

I think the trick is not to focus on the body, but on the mind. Like you said, Ronni, use the way you think, the way you percieve time, to your advantage. Don't eat because "it's time", eat because you are actually hungry. Slow down time a bit, eat slowly and enjoy your food instead of just wolfing something down. Think about what you eat, and why, and whether it is because that is something you really want to consume, or just because it's there.

But again, it is not just about your body. If you are comfortable within your body, and it is comfortable with how you are taking care of it, no worries. But those aches and pains need attention, and care, and they need to be heeded.

I am using the trick of time passing by to recover from a broken toe right now. I can't do my usual exercise routine, so have to find other ways to exercise that don't hurt the toe. It's been good for me, though, because it makes me consider a part of me that I normally don't think about, and how I treat it. Awareness is everything.

Great topic--timely. I battle this problem also and it's worse than ever in terms of difficulty controlling and eliminating pounds. And, to make matters worse, the weight is uglier than ever as it is not distributed so well any more. Oh well, the diet is constant and I sometimes think how seriously heavy I'd be if I weren't "always on a diet". PS: Weight watches is popular with my wife and it worked for her!!

Ben & Jerry's comes in that convenient 'single serving size'...

Hard to resist. Well, there's only a 'little bit' left... Maybe I'll just clean that up...

Reminds me of the Judy Tenuda Peperidge Farm Cookie Routine:

Well, I'll just have this one layer of cookies. Oh, that was good. Oh look! One of them is broken, I'll just have that broken one... Now there's not an even number! I'll have to even that up. Well, there's only a couple left, so... (Pushing the bag off the table..) Now look at that they are ALL broken... Well, I'll have to clean THOSE up too!

So that "Bet you can't eat just one!" advertisement went straight to the heart of most of us!

Just keep the junk out of the house and try to be a 'good girl' when you go out. That's the best we can do...

Ah yes, I've only been "retired" a few short weeks and the clothes are tight. Did I mention I made chocolate chip cookies for the Grandkids and family decending on us for Comic-Con. The house fills with their smell.

Oh Ronni, you've hit the nail on the head with that post!
Just replace 'back ache' with bad knee and the first part could be describing me.
My problem is making a start on the sensible eating plan you describe next. Yes, time goes much more quickly nowadays but I still have problems getting started and sticking to it!

Ronni, I've experienced the same thing, except for the diet. The one you're on would send me to an eternal trip to the toilet. Can't drink milk at all, have to avoid grain and too much fruit and veggies or else... Actually, two summers ago, trying to work on my cholesterol count produced that effect. So I have reduced on cheese --one of my favourites-- and try to listen to my body telling me I'm hungry, and then telling me that I've had enough. Very difficult for a woman who's spent her life going on diets.
Exercise has done it for me. And I realise that if I walk and exercise and avoid the couch AND the computer (difficult task), it's working.
And yes, you're right about the time factor. The nine months it has taken me to move towards better health has flown by! ;)

Ronni - YOU ARE A GENIUS....look at the word DIE T = dying to try it...so do that - just:
1. taste (little covered dishes like the restaurant take home size duck sauce (for nuts and choclate)LOCK UP THAT CHOCLATE (yeah right)!!!!
2. eat till you get that I've had enough and stop
3. keep drinking water in between
4. try "sucking" candy like Werthers Hard Caramel
5. remember the old adage if you can - morning meal like king, lunch meal like queen, dinner like pauper
All this information and I am still at least 50 pounds overweight...but I just keep on trying


I htink one of the reasons that time goes so fast is that I am doing what I want to do every day not what someone else wants me to do.

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