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.]