Fat and Fifty

It recently occurred to me that taking 10 years off from my exercise routine may have been in fact a folly. As I approached my big 50 I started to panic.
I’ve been a dancer and a fitness instructor and I lifted weights during my 20s and most of my 30s, but after giving birth to my son at 37, I was too tired to be anything but a full time mother.
Those years of fitness kept me in fairly good shape until my early 40s, but then the fitness fairy flew over my house one night while I lay exhausted in my sweaty bed and sucked the fitness genes right out of me.
One day I looked good, the next day I didn’t.
My partner, Scott, said he didn’t know what I was talking about. I booked him an appointment with the optometrist and thanked heaven he was perceptually-challenged.
As for me, I rationalized. I’m a food writer and part of my job is tasting the recipes I develop. In the process of working on a new cookbook, I gained 28 pounds, Okay, it was more like 36. Okay, okay, 38.5.
In the good old days I could stop eating the second dessert, walk around the block a couple of times and Bam! back in shape. Now my body had a mind of its own.
As a foodie/home economist, I know about food, eating and weight loss. I was doing all the boring, “sensible” things you need to do to lose weight – eat less, exercise more, spend endless hours in self-analysis. My weight went down, but those last 10 pounds weren’t going anywhere.
What the hell was going on? I felt as if my body was getting back at me for all those years I’d starved it, sprinted it up hills and stuffed it full of chocolate at 3 a.m. because of some guy.
I researched the problem, roaming the Internet into the wee hours of the morning, skulking about the research library, reading medical journals, magazine articles, books. Everything kept pointing to the same thing. Menopause.
Menopause? You mean all those things my mother told me about “the change” were true? Weight gain, night sweats, hot flashes, being so crabby you felt like axe-murdering someone. Wasn’t being fat and old bad enough?
The Big M, and I don’t mean Frank Mahovilich, was ruining my life and my figure. Hormones, fat memory, toxic fat – whatever you call it, my metabolism had run amok and the only thing left to do was mourn for the body I once had. I mollified myself with an entire carton of chocolate ice cream.

Those last 10 pounds became my albatross, my nemesis. I woke up with Them laughing at nude me in the bedroom mirror, chortling at big butt me when I tried on pants and downright howling at cellulite me whenever I even glanced at a bathing suit.
The words of Winston Churchill kept swirling around in my brain: “We will never surrender, we will fight them in the beaches, we will fight them in the streets, we will fight them……..”
That’s what I had to do. Fight. But fight what? My big butt? My guilt about the ice cream? My metabolism?
No! I had to fight my pre-menopausal way of thinking. To loose weight in your late fourties and early fifties, I had to do some significant sweaty work.
I bought a pedometer. The goal, the instructions explained, was to take 10,000 steps per day. No sweat, I thought. I’m fit, I have a dog, I walk a lot. This is going to be a piece of cake – okay, bad reference considering the circumstances. How about a piece of low-fat, high-fibre muffin.
The next morning, I literally sprang out of bed, clipped on my cutting-edge toy, and took my dog, Bailey, for our regular 40-minute morning meander. “I’ll show you 10,000 steps,” I thought smugly. Forty minutes later, only 4,500 steps registered in the tiny little viewing screen. Quickly springing into Grade 3 math, I calculated I had another 5,500 steps to go. No sweat, I thought, I’m a busy, active person.

After a gruelling day of cooking, cleaning, opening and closing the back door for Bailey, doing the laundry, going to the bank, sitting in front of my computer, driving my son to hockey practice, watching him practice, driving home, making supper, cleaning up, returning massive amounts of phone calls and e-mails and then collapsing in front of the TV, I had only walked 8,800 steps. Apparently, I’m not the right kind of busy.
So I started walking. Really walking. I walked to the bank, I walked to the drugstore. I took the subway once in awhile. I remembered that I had been a lot thinner before I owned a car. I dabbled in Pilates, step class and yoga. I went to the fitness club with Scott and watched him sweat. I joined in.
I started being accountable to myself, and the scale started budging. Sweating works. Not only was I losing weight, I was building bone mass and lowering my risk of heart disease.
Menopause has always scared me. My only reference point had been watching my mother go through the change of life, she was a cross between Kate from The Taming Of The Shrew and Edith from All In The Family.
“Change of life” always seemed such an odd way to say “losing your estrogen” – until it started happening to me. The Change, for me, has been an honest-to-goodness, empowering metamorphosis. I’ve gone from being a weepy mess into someone who knows what they want.
As my estrogen has diminished, my testosterone has been kicking in. Thankfully, I’m not growing more body hair, but suddenly, I don’t give a rat’s ass what people think of me, just like a “real man.”
In my 20s and 30s, I tended to live my life for other people. In my 40s, I lived my life like an explorer, discovering new horizons. In my 50s, I’m starting to live my life for me. Better late than never.
The other day, my son and I were cleaning out the basement and came across a box of old photos. There I was, 27 years old – young, firm skin, full of hope.
“Mom, is that you?” my son asked.
“Yup, that’s me.”
“Wow, you were a babe!”
“Yes, I was. And you know? I’m still a babe.”
I’m 50 years old – not so young, not such firm skin, but still full of hope.

Posted in My Spin on Things
5 comments on “Fat and Fifty
  1. Yvonne Tremblay says:

    Hi Mairlyn,
    Fun read! I am having that pre-menopausal insight too. And, the 8 pounds that won’t go away. (Could have something to do with the chocolate recipes I was developing for the Recipes Plus calendar.) Seems like it was a lot easier to lose the 5 lbs. of winter fat. See you are speaking at the Sept. mtg. Plannign to attend. Hope you are having a good summer. I am doing the CNE (Apr, Pavilion, Automotive Bldg.) for the duration so my summer is about to end! Good thing it has been pretty nice so far.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Loved this article and it is just the boost I need. I may stick it on my frig!! I am into my 50’s and have many pounds to lose and often get down on myself. Guess the walking isn’t all I need to be doing.Thanks for the ‘pep talk’ and the reality check-you are the best.

  3. Carolyn Scott says:

    Holy crap , I love you. don’t tell Chuckles. Fabulous blog/rant

  4. Linda Cerqua says:

    Hi Marilyn
    Just read this article and I am sure that you just wrote about me. In my teens and 20s I could eat anything and not gain a pound. Then I had children and the weight just piled on and stayed on. I started menopaused in my late 30s. I am now 56 and I still get hot flashes and still have a lot of weight to loss. You have just given me the boost that I need to get my butt in gear and tackle this weight. Thank you. I not only love you but I love your sense of humour.

  5. Margi (Neubert) Hoffart says:

    I agree with Linda (July 21/11) that you must have been writing about me as well. Teens, twenties, thirties, eat eat eat, not gaining ANY weight. In fact, I had to take measures to put on a few pounds just to look human at times. The forties came along and I rolled over in bed one morning and found I had changed. The fifties came along and I fell out of bed in an entirely different body that weighed 25 lbs more than the day before. Imagine my horror. I could only guess it must have been menopause, although I was pretty lucky and didn’t experience any symptoms. It was the blood test (hormone levels) that confirmed it. Now as the fifties begin to draw to a close I, too, give not much of a damn what people think, although I still avoid the bathing suit (some vanity being a hard customer to please). Statistics Canada’s Health Measures testing deemed me overweight when I was recruited in 2010. They paid me $100 to tell me that. (Really, you’re serious, Statistics people? I’m overweight?) but “I am who I am and that’s all that I am”. My body used to be good but I was underappreciated by most, including myself, way back then. Now the body is not-so-good but I appreciate myself immensely. Too bad for anyone else that hasn’t discovered the beauty of me. Funny thing, this aging. To all the women who will experience this natural process called menopause, hang in there and talk about it because you certainly aren’t alone. For those of us who have lived through it, congratulations to us. We made it and came out great on the other side–yahoo! And just because I want to live a little longer, I just might give that exercise thing a try . . . . .

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