My metabolism is on vacation. Better she than I, though. She looks much better in a bikini. I, in fact, haven’t looked good in a bikini since I was sixteen. And that, my friends, was quite a few years ago. So, I’m wishing her well, bidding her adieu until she decides to return. I hope she’s got a bit of a sunburn when she comes back. Not enough for a vinegar bath, just enough to make her a little uncomfortable. Then, perhaps, she’ll think twice before jetting off on me again.
Today, I’m feeling Oprah’s pain. The weight gain, the weight loss, the weight gain, the weight loss. Blah, blah, yo-yo, blah. I’ve got a sordid history of bad eating habits and poor food choices. When I was sixteen, slim, fit, and strong — and my high school basketball coach told me I’d be much faster if I lost twenty pounds — I believed him. And as the quintessential pleaser, I did everything I could to right my twenty pound wrong. From bingeing to purging to laxatives to obsessive exercise to altogether inconvenient instances of passing out, I engaged in some pretty risky health behaviors over the next half-decade or so. And the sad and honest truth is that I was joined by so many others. I’ve known far too many girls who were in the bathroom stall next to me, who loaned me some Dexatrim when I was out. I’ll do everything in my power to ensure my daughter will not be counted among them. No girl should. No human being should.
I’ve always been a bit of an extremist… be the best, do the best, score the highest. It only seemed natural to add “run the fastest” to my list of accolades. But here’s the thing. I’m not fast. I never have been, I never will be. I’m not predispositioned to speed in any way shape or form. When a speedy friend and I used to shop together, she’d leave me in the dust. “Let’s make tracks!” she’d say as she prepped her long, skinny legs for the sprint. It used to make her crazy that I couldn’t keep up. It only took me about twenty years or so to realize that my former coach was wrong. Skinny wouldn’t make me fast. Skinny wouldn’t make me happy. Skinny wouldn’t complete me. (See, I’m even a slow learner…)
Four c-sections and about 36 pounds of baby later, I have some irreversible battle scars. My body will never be the same as it once was. But I can make it better than it is, stronger than it is. And I can embrace those scars that irrevocably changed my life. I’ll call this stretch mark Sam; I’ll name this dimple Gus. (Why is it that dimples on your face are cute? Can we not adopt that attitude about the rest of our bodily creases?)
Last November, I ran a marathon (yes, slowly). While I trained for it, I lost nearly 60 pounds. It make me feel much better to lose the weight, but it was also a full-time job. Logging 40 miles a week is not a sustainable life plan for me. (Because, yes, it takes me longer than the average bear to get those slow miles under my belt.) I mean, I have to have time to read and write and fulfill my freelance contracts and sit on my ass and haul my kids around town and watch Modern Family.
And then there are Pop-Tarts. I know they’re glorified cardboard. I understand that there’s absolutely no nutritional value to them. I get that the fruit filling resembles fruit about as much as I resemble Jennifer Aniston. BUT I LIKE THEM.
There’s something comforting about certain foods — something that conjures up warm, childhood memories. I feel that way about soggy PB&Js and slightly tepid containers of chocolate milk. Those flavors take me right back to St. Michael’s, right back to Sister Veronica Ann’s classroom, right back to the pre-recess lunch where I’d dream about driving a kickball straight into an eighth grade boy’s gut or knocking some unsuspecting soul senseless with a well-aimed dodge ball. And Twinkies? Oh, Twinkies. They take me straight down Memory Lane to the Weston Village Apartments where I’d run rampant with all the neighborhood ruffians until my mom called me in for dinner. We’d eat macaroni and tuna and wash it all down with a Twinkie or two. Then I’d rest my sweaty head on her lap while we watched “Laverne and Shirley.” Pure, heavenly, childhood bliss.
My problem is that I enjoy all foods. I do have a palate for fine food as well. I love the blend of good seasoning, the melt-in-your-mouth experience of a superior filet, the nuances of a pleasingly complicated glass of red. But I can turn around and eat a Big Mac just as easily. Don’t even get me started on the Steak and Shake chocolate/banana side-by-side.
Dieting makes me grumpy. I feel good when I lose weight, but I hate the process itself. I fall into victim-hood, complaining about everything I can’t have, longing for all those things that are on the “no” list. It makes Chris a little crazy. And my kids? They’re the South Beach Nazis. When a crouton even hints at passing my lips, they’ll all yell, “CHEATER!!” loudly enough to start the dogs howling. They’re charming that way.
It’s important for me to set a good example for my pre-teen girl, to let her know that her self-worth should never be tied to her physical appearance. And I also want her to be healthy and strong and to understand the value of good nutritional choices. I don’t want her to be a nut job about food like her Mama is. And I want my boys to know good health, too. I want them to realize what it means to be strong, to choose wisely. I don’t want them to take a girl out on a first date and yell, “CHEATER!!” when she opts for a dinner roll. And trust me, George Willis will do just that.
So, as I gear up for today’s 5K and think about those damn sinful broccoli bites that await me at lunch today (thanks, Kay!), I need to remember to keep it all in perspective. Food, exercise, control, speed, right, wrong, good, bad, mistakes, victories, life.
All things in moderation.