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.