Last week I had a routine visit with my cardiologist where I learned the results of blood tests that were taken the week before. All of the readings were right on target: cholesterol, both good and bad; triglycerides; blood pressure, etc. The doctor was pleased, and of course so was I. He declared me to be in excellent health EXCEPT for something that did not show up in the tests but was very obvious—my weight.
My sister Cathie and I had both struggled with weight issues all of our lives. We blamed it on genetics, which may have been partially at fault, and our family’s attitude that food was fun, not fuel; but it was probably most attributable to our appreciation of the food we ate in overabundance. Over the years, between the two of us, we tried every diet program available, both doctor-supervised and self-monitored, and had some measure of success with each one. Cathie even had bariatric surgery.
Yet each time we reached our goal of losing a certain number of pounds, we’d go back to our old habits and behaviors and gain it back. Even surgery proved not to be a permanent solution.
Since we considered it more of an aesthetic issue than a health concern, we didn’t let it get in the way of leading productive, well-rounded lives (sorry for the pun). We were active socially and had successful careers, but “obesity”* was always lurking in the shadows. If that were gone, everything would be perfect.
We fell victim to the “thin is in” mindset, and the promotions and promises of the multi-billion dollar weight loss industry motivated us to buy their products and subscribe to their services. We believed what they told us:
You have to be thin to be happy; you have to be thin to be successful; you have to be thin to be loved; one size fits all; you too can look like the model in the ad; in only five-, ten- or fifteen minutes a day, you will have a perfect body; no diet or exercise, just take this one little pill; “Just eat the food and lose the weight” Nutri System; celebrity spokespeople: Oprah Winfrey, Kirstie Allie, Richard Simmons, Marie Osmond; fat free…sugar free…low carb…lite; guaranteed results.
…at the same time we heard and heeded the other side:
Clean your plate–there are starving children in Africa/China/ fill in the blank (I never did understand the connection); size doesn’t matter, it’s just a number; they’re not bulges, they’re curves; black is very slenderizing—so are vertical stripes; focus on your face and hair, no one will see the rest of you; you’re not fat, you’re full-figured; at least I’m not at big as SHE is; that scale is not accurate; you’re tall, you can carry it; the camera adds pounds (50?); their sizes run small; it shrunk in the wash, at the cleaners, hanging in the closet; just one taste won’t hurt; “Nothin’s as lovin’ as somethin’ from the oven “ (Pillsbury Dough Boy); if no one sees you eat it, it doesn’t count; if you don’t write it down, it doesn’t count; if it’s your Birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, Groundhog’s Day, it doesn’t count; “Never eat more than you can lift” (Miss Piggy); and my very favorite: If you can’t look thin, look successful (Joan Rivers)–especially useful for school reunions.
Those conflicting beliefs haunted me over the years. Adding to my internal turmoil was the fact that my husband never criticized or complained. He was supportive of my weight loss efforts and cheered the results but never expressed disappointment or disapproval if the scales tipped in the other direction. I find comfort in believing: “Beauty is simply Reality seen through the eyes of Love.” (Evelyn Underhill).
So, once again I am faced with the dilemma: do I accept myself as I am, go out a buy a new wardrobe (in a larger size) and continue the status quo; or do I renew my determination to pursue the elusive ideal? Your comments are welcome. Feel free to “weigh in” with your “feedback.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist the “delicious” puns.
*Obesity: generally considered to be 20% over ideal weight or a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30 or more.
Here’s a piece on a related topic that I wrote for Memoirs Class at Writers and Books in February, 2010:
It was my very first official business trip. As a newly licensed real estate agent I was going to the National Association of REALTORS Conference in Washington, D.C., three hundred miles from home. For the first time in my life I would be traveling alone, staying at a hotel, attending meetings and educational sessions and participating in policy-making decisions that would impact the entire nation of home buyers and sellers. And I was getting ready.
There I stood in the middle of my large, well-equipped suburban kitchen, completely surrounded by pots, pans, measuring cups, spoons, and bowls, and all the ingredients needed to produce enough meals to feed a small country (only slight exaggeration). Tantalizing aromas wafted from the stovetop and oven. You see, with me away, my family would be on their own.
My husband of twenty years was a Vice President at Citibank in NYC, having worked his way up from messenger after graduating from high school. He commuted daily leaving Princeton Junction on the 7:05 train each morning and returning at seven in the evening. Our children were both in high school: our son, a Star rank Boy Scout with multiple merit badges on his sash, and our daughter, at the top of her class with many extracurricular talents. All of them had demonstrated the ability to survive the rigors of middle class life in the suburbs of New Jersey. Also our area had three major super markets and several very good restaurants, some within walking distance.
Yet I felt it was my responsibility to provide for their sustenance even though I would not be physically present. I was making a meatloaf, a chicken/rice casserole, lasagna, two pans of brownies (in case they had friends over), a batch of chocolate chip cookies, a pound cake from scratch, and a Jell-O mold to tide them over until my return. The refrigerator was stocked with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and the freezer jammed with ice cream and frozen treats. Heaven forbid they shouldn’t have their favorites just because Mom wasn’t there.
In the midst of this scene my daughter walked in. Astonished by the clutter and chaos, she asked, “Mom, what are you doing?” That caused me to ponder. Was I doing all of this because I felt they were not competent to take care of themselves? Could it be that I felt guilty because I was doing something entirely for myself? Maybe it was because I was afraid they would find from this experience that they could get along just fine without me, OR all of the above. “Just showing how much I love you,” I answered.