May 28, 2014

The Weight-ing Game

I have worried over my weight since I was seventeen. Up until then I was a willowy thing, long of limb and lean as a rake and whatever calories I had eaten, whether they were from candy or lentils, were easily burned off by my daily activity. In September of my last year of high school a boy with whom I had often been cycling during the summer told me I was getting chubby. His words made me indignant on the surface - how dare he? - and devastated underneath. I was certainly not chubby, but I had noticed my curves were getting curvier and my pants a wee bit tighter around the waist. "You're a nice medium sized girl" said my mother. "You have a problem with sugar, don't you?" said my sister. I did. Butterhorns and ice cream were my downfall. The summer after high school I went to stay with my sister in dead-flat Winnipeg and gained twelve pounds. Her friends liked to take me out to restaurants for cheesecake and fries with gravy.

After I returned home from the 'Peg all the weight came off in two weeks. It was that easy back then. All I had to do was redecorate and paint my bedroom and start climbing the unavoidable hills of Nelson again. It hasn't been that easy to shed pounds in years and it is getting progressively harder to stay lean. I can easily gain two pounds in a celebratory weekend (birthday cake, wine, a meal with a rich sauce), and losing a pound takes a ten kilometer run and an hour and a half of high intensity yoga class. 

Until I was about thirty-five my weight went up and down depending on how much exercise I was managing to get and with my four pregnancies. After thirty-five, however, the weight climbed and stayed no matter how much exercise I got. By the age of forty I realised that if I kept up my level of yearly weight gain I would be greatly overweight by the time I was fifty and I knew that would not be healthy. Something had to be done. I was not about to go on a diet of broccoli and quinoa. I'd been there and done that in my early thirties and become so thin and obsessive about whatever I put in my mouth that my husband had begun to question both the hours I spent cooking two versions of every meal - one for myself and one for my family - and my extreme self denial at the dinner table. Other people began to comment on the bones protruding from my shoulders and hips. My fourth pregnancy ended my broccoli and quinoa diet. I craved bread and milk in the middle of the night, but I remained thin throughout my pregnancy and afterwards, too, thanks to the great calorie-burning effect of breastfeeding. Once I stopped breastfeeding I began to notice a difference in my metabolism, but I continued to eat my own good baking. Running kept the weight off until I ended up sidelined with a foot injury. So, there I was at forty, worried about the future. I appealed to a wise friend and she suggested a course of action. I would eat a good breakfast, a large lunch as my main meal and taper off for the rest of the day and finish with a small, low-carb supper. The method worked. I lost ten pounds and kept it off for two years at least. I think it was over Christmas of the third year that I veered off the narrow rails of my proven method and the pounds began to creep back on. I lost weight over the summer, only to put it back on again over the winter.

I was out for a walk the other night with my seventeen year old daughter and my son who is home for the summer from university. We were talking about diet and exercise and I heard myself say, "You know, I don't know anymore if I'm fat or if I'm thin." 

"You are thin, Mom," said my son. My heart lifted. "I mean, for someone who has had four kids, you are doing well."

Hm. Okay. 

"What do you mean?" asked my daughter the health and fitness junkie. 

"I mean, " said I, "that compared with a lot of women I see I feel thin, but compared with many others and with what the media portrays as the ideal weight for women my age, I feel fat. It is confusing." 

I think the truth about my statement is that I am not sure what I should be aiming for at this stage of my life regarding my size and shape. I want to stay the same size so I don't have to buy all new clothing. I want to stay thin enough to maintain a good energy level and to be able to keep up the running. I am back on track with the small suppers and the several glasses of water a day. I have a goal of running 20 kilometers by my birthday in September, so I am running well and often. Still, I am not yet losing much of that winter weight, although I can tell by the way my pants are fitting that some of it is turning to muscle. Perhaps the answer lies in that evil substance: sugar. I do not want to obsess over everything that I eat, but is that what it takes? I want to enjoy food without feeling like I am failing every time I eat a piece of cake. Some days I am overwhelmed at my wonderful discipline. Some days I cannot seem to get through the afternoon without chocolate.

Once upon a time I was a nice medium sized girl - although she looks pretty tiny to me now. Perhaps I have to be content now with being a nice, healthy medium sized woman. Perhaps this self-image thing is really a matter of realistic perspective. The air-brushed magazine images be damned. 


  1. What an honest appraisal of a very well trodden road (for women at least). I know I am no longer the whippet thin girl I was. People used to complain that it wasn't fair that I could eat whatever I liked and never put on an ounce. I have never dieted in my life. Not once. I am no longer whippet thin, but I am a fidget and this may be my saving grace. I don't run anymore and my weekly Pilates class is about flexibility not weight loss. However, the other day I saw my back in a changing room mirror and was horrified. There were rolls. I resolved to do something about it. I resolved never to look in a changing room mirror at my back again. It seems to be working.

    1. You have hit the nail on the head. I think as we get older our focus needs to be on 'a body in shape, rather than the shape of our body' as the sign reads in my massage therapist's waiting room. These days I look at people like Judy Dench and think, 'Wow, she's beautiful' (and not whippet thin). Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lucille. I am long overdue in reading blogs but pledge to catch up.

  2. This is something I think most all women - and a lot of men - mull over often. I've seen people who lose a good amount of weight, but it makes them look sickly. I think we all have individual body styles and weights to match. Forget the cultural ideal!

    20 kilometers! You go!

    1. Yes! A lot of men go through this as well, also to do with the lean, six pack vision they constantly see in ads and other media. Someone did a visual representation of six women in Australia who are all 154 pounds, and they all looked quite different, and all looked attractive, too. I'm getting there, which I think is what allows me to write a post like this :)

  3. i think a lot of it comes down to our own comfort with our body type...i have seen people that by the worlds standards are well over the accepted size...but they are comfortable with it...and who am i to judge...a lot of it comes down to what/who you are comparing to as well...should we be healthy? sure, but it has to be a choice...and balanced...i will be working out this summer...because i want to....

  4. Love this Rebecca! I have had many a similar thought/conversation! I want to be healthy and be able to be active and feel good.
    "The air-brushed magazine images be damned."


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!