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How my journey to reclaim myself started with losing weight...
This past April I decided that I had to get serious about losing some weight. I was feeling sluggish, heavy, tired and sore.
I had lost weight several years ago but over time, much of it had come back. Why does weight do that? It’s like the unwanted but inevitable boomerang.
Anyway, this year and over the last few months, my weight went down and now, I am at a size that I’ve not seen since probably my 30s. This photo below shows an annoyingly perky me after my graduation from horticulture school at Algonquin College — I would have been in my early 30s and thrilled to have gotten through this intensive two year program.
In the decades since then, I steadily put more and more weight on, until suddenly I was convinced that I was a middle-aged woman who was doomed to be heavy and shapeless for.the.rest.of.her.life. Sorry, you won’t get to see those pictures.
As an aside, when I was a young girl I used to think that when women reached a certain age, their hair would cease to grow - how else do you explain the absence of middle aged women with long hair? I firmly believed this until I met my friend’s mother, who wore her hair long and in a single braid. I was convinced she was a fairy, or at least a hippie, endowed with some kind of magic….their house had a vegetable garden in the backyard where I first learned that you could pull a carrot from the ground and eat its sweet root after brushing the dark soil away…magic.
At the same time, a good friend of mine also got serious about weight loss and dropped dozens of pounds. I enthusiastically followed her lead and lost about 35 pounds. Everything got better, including my state of mind. And knowing that I had accomplished something that I thought I was doomed to fail at, well, it gave me such a great sense of personal triumph.
Over time, not only did I stop dying my hair, but wrinkles began to appear and the weight started creeping back up…
And yes, there was food and drink. With good friends. At excellent restaurants.
Not all of it unhealthy…in fact, most of it beautiful and seasonal. But there was just too much of it.
I knew that going to the gym, walking the dog, or gardening for my clients wasn’t simply going to cut it. I had to change my food habits...and I love food. So, first I tried the Whole30 program - this is really simply a 30 day elimination diet, that has you eating lots of protein, good fats and pure foods as well as doing away with grains, sugars, dairy and any processed food. I felt much better, my knees felt stronger but, strangely, I didn’t lose any weight.
So then I discovered that another good friend had been following a weight loss regimen and had had tremendous success with it…so, of course, I followed suit. As of today, I have surpassed what I had originally lost several years ago and am hoping to take the last few pounds off by Christmas (Christmas gods willing!). It will mean that from my heaviest, I will have lost about 50 pounds.
Carrying less weight around has allowed my knees to not only bend more easily but to hold me up; as we all know, with age often comes joint issues and my extra weight was making my knees look like those big knuckle bones you buy your dog from the pet store. Lumpy, swollen and well, just not the knees I used to have…
I used to consider my back my kryptonite. After having had major back surgery when I was 13 and then working in physical jobs through much of my later life, my lower back was always in low-grade chronic pain. This pain, of course, got worse the more weight I carried…and it didn’t start to subside until I took the extra pounds off. And after that, my knees became my kryptonite. Knees that my doctor said warranted a referral to the ‘joint clinic’ (which never happened, because, you know, covid), knees that couldn’t be counted on to let me squat or even get up from the floor. In fact, my last trip to Florida had me walking along the beaches with Scoutie, only able to sit at benches because I feared if I tumbled down into a sit on the sand, I wouldn’t be able to get up….yes, just like that commercial.
Rather than look squarely at the possibility of having knee replacement surgery down the road (I had recently had a crown placed on one of my teeth and this made me think that my authentic body was beginning to abandon me), I decided to take my joints into my own hands, so to speak. I researched supplements and settled on a regimen of turmeric, glucosamine, omega-3 fish oil and collagen. Lots of capsules and horse pills, but worth it. I began taking this cocktail two years ago and am convinced they have made a huge difference.
We have such a strange and voyeuristic attitude toward our own skin, don’t we? I had said before to someone who flinched at my forthrightness, “Heck, I just want to be able to look at my naked body in the mirror and not be repulsed.” And by that I mean, not be super critical about every wrinkle, sag, curve and fold.
And I can do this now. I even found a bikini that I had purchased many, many years ago and gingerly put it on (yeah, you don’t get to see the bikini from years ago without a towel over it!)…
To my utter and complete shock, it fit. Well, I should say, I could get both the top and the bottom on, but there was some tumbling of flesh in certain locations, to the point where I confess that it would not be a pleasant sight for others, but heck - IT FIT!
But it’s not simply about fit.
Strangely, with this new lithe(ish) body at a weight that I haven’t seen in decades, my skin does not look the same. Strange, you ask? Why would it be strange? I am now living in a 62 year old body, one that has served me well but one who I have felt estranged from for many, many years. One that I have struggled to come to terms with and appreciate. One that now I have to consider, with everything I do.
My recent knee injury (thank you crazy zoomie dogs!) again pointed out to me how fragile we are as we age (I hate to even say that) and how we must now, finally, treat our bodies with the care and respect that we might have withheld from them when we were younger. Younger and feeling infallible.
Not only are we fragile, but we are also precious. And we are changed. Changed by our years on the planet, years walking, carrying, lifting, running, falling, eating, laughing, drinking, climbing, dancing, swimming, raking, digging, planting, sitting…despairing, loving, hating, swearing, wondering, hoping, accepting, saying goodbyes, saying hellos, forgiving, being awed, being swept away…all of it making its mark on us.
And through all of it, I have something important to ask. Why does Eddie Bauer’s XL puffy coat still fit me comfortably?