Some weeks ago, I went out to eat with my parents and family to celebrate my father’s birthday.
We enjoyed a tasty meal and lively conversation.
As the evening came to a close, the server asked if anyone wanted dessert. “No, thank you,” said my 72-year-old year old mother. “I’m on a diet.”
As the waitress left, my mom whispered, “I’m wearing a bathing suit at the bay this year even if it kills me. I’m not going into the water in my mumu.”
“Come on, it’s Dad’s birthday,” I said. “You can have one piece of cake.”
My mother turned to my father. “What do you think? Am I fat?”
The table grew quiet. He paused. And then his lips drew into a playful grin. “Only slightly so.”
We held our breath. My mother has been trying to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight for 46 years.
“Who am I kidding?” My mom smiled. “Get that waitress back here.”
We laughed. And ate cake.
Weight can be a touchy subject for women—for my mom, for me, for my daughter. I wish I didn’t care about how much I weighed. In front of my daughter, I bite my tongue not to talk about my weight. I don’t want to impose my insecurities on her. My wish is for her to love her beautiful, athletic body.
But I’m a hypocrite, because the voices in my head are pretty nasty.
You need to lose five more pounds.
Your stomach is not flat enough.
You can’t eat that!
When it comes to our weight, most of us lie—we’re either delusional about our own weight or we’re less than truthful toward others about theirs. Recently I read an article about a woman’s honest conversation with her daughter about her daughter’s weight.
If only I could be this forthright with myself.
For years, I didn’t get on the scale. I thought I was healthy teaching aerobics—but I always hated my muffin top and how tight my jeans felt. The sad part is that I didn’t get into a bathing suit for most of my kids’ childhood. When I saw pictures on Facebook of overweight women comfortable at the beach in a bikini, I felt like a shallow, superficial fraud.
Why couldn’t I just be happy with the way I looked, completely embracing middle age and the tire roll that comes with it?
When I finally forced myself onto the scale two years ago, I nearly had a heart attack. While I thought I’d probably put on 10 pounds, in reality I’d packed on 25!
That’s enough! I thought.
Only, I knew I couldn’t diet. I had a huge mental block about it: the moment I started a diet, I was famished. And I expected after two days of serious restraint that I’d step on the scale and be ten pounds lighter.
And I couldn’t fit in any more exercise than I already did.
So, I decided to change one small thing at a time.
I stopped having Cheez-its and Coca Cola for lunch.
I replaced the sugary soda with hot tea with healthy raw honey. When a cola craving hit me, I’d slowly sip the piping liquid and the urge would vanish. I learned to love tea so much that I developed an exotic tea-hunting hobby.
I started to make homemade, broth-based soups to take to work for lunch. This was effective in that it forced me to just slow down and be more mindful—try to eat a bowl of soup quickly, it can’t be done! Plus, soup is filling and generally lower in calories than many other lunch foods.
At Chick-fil-a, I would order a salad in place of a sandwich (it still had the fried chicken on it).
I bought a FitBit and tracked my steps. On cold winter nights, it meant walking around my living room until I hit 10,000.
For dessert, I only ate three bites.
I stopped riding the elliptical and started running instead. I realized that if I could read a book while “working out” on the elliptical that I wasn’t pushing myself. I had to sweat and raise my heart rate. At first, I could only run a mile. Then I worked up to two. Now I’m running five kilometre races.
Some days my FitBit registers 20,000 steps.
These were some of the key changes I made when it came to my health and my weight. No food was off-limits, as long as I ate it in moderation. It was a radically different approach than the “all or nothing” strategies I’d tried in the past.
I made small changes. I was patient. And slowly but consistently, the weight started to drop off.
I’m lighter now. But, I’m middle-aged, too. As friends get sick and complain about aches and pains, I’ve finally reached a point where I am grateful that my body is healthy. I’m learning to love myself and accept that I will never be stick thin.
The unkind voices in my head have quieted.
Am I fat? I ask myself when I look in the mirror.
No, I answer. You look just as you should.
Be happy. Put on a bathing suit. Soon your kids are going to be too big to care if you go in the water or not.
Author: Heather Christie
Image: Sean at Flickr
Editor: Renée Picard