Sunday, January 18, 2015

Does size really matter?

When I was in the sixth grade, my mother went on a boiled egg and hamburger diet. The idea was to eat two boiled eggs for breakfast, two boiled eggs for lunch, and 1/2 pound of hamburger for dinner. I decided I should go on it too. I don't know how Mother did, but I lasted only two days. Today that diet has morphed into the Dr. Atkins, but I'm quite sure I could never adhere to it for more than a couple of days. There's nothing that can make me obsess more for fresh garden salad than 1/2 pound of hamburger meat, sans condiments and bun.

Like many females, I struggled with my body image and yo-yo'ed with various diets at different times in my life. And none of them "worked." But over the years I noticed something. For example, when I was a freshman in college I was so sensitive about my legs--I considered them fat--and my midriff looked plump. However, after I was out of college, I ran across pictures of me and my girlfriends at the beach, and I could see, with 20-20 hindsight, I was neither overweight nor flabby. Actually,  I was quite darling.

I've talked to other girlfriends and they report similar experiences. In an effort to become perfect, we've developed an aversion to our natural bodies. Not only that, but sometimes we go so far as putting our lives on hold. How could I possibly go on a cruise or spend a week in Cancun when I was thirty pounds overweight. Sad, isn't it?

It took me until I entered the sixth decade of my life to finally make peace with my weight. That's when I made the conscious decision to enjoy life and not let my body size stop me from embracing it with gusto. One of the amazing side effects of not obsessing about weight is that I've turned my attention to experiences that enrich my life. I've traveled to Italy, Israel, and Greece, taken day rides on the Harley I bought when I was 59 years old, begun teaching public seminars.... It's been a full, exciting life.

There are times people will say, "Have you lost weight? You look great!" I always shake my head and say, "Just buying bigger clothes." I haven't, but those four words deflect the conversation from body size, and we then have an interesting conversation.

I'm hopeful with the advertisements coming out these days that celebrate the diversity among healthy bodies. I hope the women coming up today won't be imprisoned by the phrase, "If only I could lose these ten pounds..." or, "When I lose these ten pounds...." I hope they escape that American cultural trap that imprisons us so unnecessarily.