I've been mentally girding myself to do battle with the onslaught of "OMG TheHolidaysWillMakeYouFAT!!!!," "HowToKeepFromGainingWeightOverTheHolidays," (stick to the veggie tray at parties? How original!!!) and then the "LoseThatHolidayFat," and "SwimsuitSeasonIsJustAroundTheCorner" articles and the media blitz of weight loss advertisements that will hit one day after Christmas. The last few years I've been able to blissfully ignore these, having enjoyed a weight that while nowhere near as slim as my youthful Audrey Hepburn fantasies, was at least stable and had allowed me to build up a stylish wardrobe. But this last year, I've suddenly gained about ten pounds (doc says "Welcome to Menopause!"). I wish I could say I'm unfazed by this, but I'm feeling a bit susceptible to the annual bombardment of weight loss messages: half of my clever wardrobe is now too tight to wear.
If I could harness all of the wasted energy I've spent dieting/regaining/agonizing about my weight over most of my five decades of life, it could probably light up Times Square for a year. A few days ago, Duchesse linked to an article from Harpers in 1993, The Weight That Women Carry. In it, the author, Sallie Tisdale says "What I liked in myself seemed to shrivel and disappear when I dieted." That one sentence sums up why I'll never darken the door of Weight Watchers again, or sign up for the "Lifestyle Change*" du jour. Ultimately, I don't like the person I'd have to be to look how I'd like to look. (That person is obsessive, self-involved, self-righteous, anxious.) I've been down that path so many times, I know the period of elation after achieving the goal eventually fades, and facing an eternity of measuring out half cups of cottage cheese starts to feel like a prison sentence. Which doesn't mean that I don't mostly eat healthfully and in moderation; I do. My mind and body certainly feel better when I do. I get regular exercise, too. But that doesn't seem to be enough any more.
Until the last few decades, it wasn't as much of a stigma for women to get a bit stouter once they were beyond their menarche years, and in some cultures, it still isn't. They certainly weren't expected to look and dress like teenagers, and if you check out vintage clothing websites, you'll see there was a lot of elegant, stylish and well-made clothing available up to a modern size 16 or so. These days the word "matronly" is practically an epithet, and even great-grandmothers are trying to squeeze into Rock & Republic jeans. A failure to maintain the body we had in our twenties is now seen as letting oneself go, and dressing to accommodate our bodies and age, a sign we've given up.
When it comes to aging, weight is only one of a myriad of ways that we fight the advance of years. Creams, injections, cosmetic procedures, hair dye, teeth bleaching and veneers...there's always another frontier on which the battle is waged to maintain a more youthful appearance. (My hair stylist even told me that one can get hair implants to augment thinning eyebrows! o_O Thanks, think I'll pass.) There's a lot of money to be made in selling us what we think will hold time itself at bay.
At some point, don't we start to get the message from those wrinkles and grey hairs and sagging bits that Life Is Short, and that we need to think more carefully how we want to spend our finite time, energy and money? So much of what happens when we age is dependent on our genes, and often all but the most extreme efforts yield minimal results. Three hundred dollars can get us some super-duper magic face cream, or three singing lessons. Ten thousand dollars can buy a brow lift or a month travelling in Italy. Five hours a week on the treadmill or volunteering at the food bank? Which supports and sustains us more? That's a question each woman has to answer for herself.
I still wrestle with this. On the one hand, I know diets are a recipe for failure, yet on the other I know that feeling frumpy detracts from the quality of my life. (Yes, I am that shallow.) I know the power that confidence can bring, and it eats away a bit at my confidence when my clothes no longer fit. To fight that feeling, I need to focus, to fine tune, to remember to eat some protein with each meal or snack, to grocery shop, to cook, to listen to my body, do what it takes to feel my best, which may or may not result in a return to last year's size. Perhaps I also need to start revamping my wardrobe. Life is short, after all.
Picture above from here.