Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lie #5: I don't believe in dieting....

Her thighs burned, starting to shake out of control. This pain couldn't possibly be endured much longer. She tried to sidetrack her brain by thinking about how her butt looked suspended in the air, her hips thrust forward in the awkward pose.
"Three, two, one and rest," instructed the girl in the mirror, clad in black yoga pants and a tight fitted white t-shirt. Josie scowled at the sight of her young, toned body, jealous of her flat abs and perky bottom.

It had been two weeks since she had joined this aerobic class and she had yet to discover any change besides the soreness of muscles that up until now she was unaware that she even had.

She hid herself behind a large Native American lady that was nearly two times her size, an overweight smile encouraging her along as Josie silently glanced at the clock. It had only been fifteen minutes since the start of the class,how in the world was she going to make it through the remaining forty-five? And whose idea was this torturous regiment?

Josie reached over and picked up her water bottle, chugging the entire contents in one breathe. Perhaps she would slip out during the dreaded wall squat to refill it,only to return once "perky bottom girl"got tired of drilling their thighs into submission.

Once again, she looked at her reflection in the wall of mirrors. She really couldn't complain much. Compared to some of the women in the class, she already was the 'after'to their 'before.' However, after three children and her 35th birthday, she really couldn't hold off the inevitable.

She had always been a thin child, almost anorexic looking by today's standard. She remembered returning home after her first semester in college, when most of the girls in her dormitory complained of gaining the "freshman fifteen." She imagined she had also gained weight on the cafeteria diet of cheeseburgers and pizza, but she was surprisingly welcomed home by the comment, "you look good, you've gained a little weight." So she returned to school, free to gorge on egg and bacon sandwiches for breakfast, burgers for lunch and dinner,with the occasional whole pizza during breaks from studying late at night. She had an aversion toward any kind of recreational or enforced exercise besides the awkward dancing at Homecoming, or later, when she was old enough to get into the latest hot spot club.

She didn't know if it was her Asian genes or just plan luck that until recently, she was never burdened with issues concerning weight. Of course, this didn't mean she didn't have issues concerning her body.

She was born with the prerequisite round Asian face,  flat nose and thick course dark hair. She watched in horror during middle school and then on in to high school as the girls around her developed breasts and curves, while remained pencil thin, her breasts easily contained in the white Playtex bra bought by her mother in the seventh grade in hopes of giving her some sense of body self-esteem. She had no hips to speak of, her body reminiscent of that of a thirteen year old boy from the neck down. She used to spend hours alone in her room, examining her body in a full length mirror on her closet door,praying for any sign that womanhood was approaching, only to realize that the hair that sprouted in her armpits, the mild acne and the small buds on her chest may be her only resemblance of being on the cusp of becoming a woman for years to come.

It was lack of self-esteem that led Josie to make some ill-fated choices when it came to male attention during her college years, only to leave her feeling used and ashamed on many a morning. However,even this didn't stop her from repeating the same choices over and over again. It wasn't until she met the man that would become her husband that she realized that the body she had been given was only a vessel in which she lived, it did not define who she was.

It was during her first pregnancy that she experienced her first weight issue. Despite the concerns and lectures from her handsome male obstetrician, she packed on a whopping 80 pounds during her daughter's nine month gestational period. She remembered craving McDonald's cheeseburgers and salty french fries dipped in thick chocolate milk shakes, making daily trips to the local WalMart under the disguise of picking up needed items for the nursery in order to quench her cravings at the in-store restaurant. She was one of those women who literally "ate for two", only she ate the equivalent of two grown adults on a free-buffet cruise line.

"I'm pregnant," was her excuse, even when she began to outweigh her husband and his healthy 175 pound body.

She relished in the delusion of not caring about the weight, convinced that she would lose it quickly after giving birth. Ice cream and potato chips became her best friend as she sat watching episode after episode of 'A Baby Story'on TLC, preparing for the birth of her first born.

The first of her girlfriends to have a baby, it came as quite a shock after twelve hours of labor, to discover that only six pounds of her 80 plus were actually cradled in her arms, sheer physical exhaustion blinding her from the girth around her middle that appeared to be the stomach of a woman still at least six months pregnant.

She returned home three days later with her little pink package of joy, delighting in the arrival of her new best friends; milk engorged breasts. Though painful as the milk first arrived, she was memorized by the sheer magnitude of them. High and thrust out from her chest, they were comparable to the breasts she had seen on celebrities and models on the E! Channel and quietly prayed that they would be forever hers. Of course,one  should be careful of what they pray for, because such vain prayers are rarely answered. 

A year went by as she blissfully raised her daughter, her stomach slowly reshaping itself into a soft round belly, silver raised stretch marks reminding her of the limitations of the human body, souvenirs she would carry with her for the rest of her life. She dutifully nursed her baby to give her all the nutrition and antibodies that she needed according to her ever faithful 'What to Expect' manual, secretly postponing any weaning because of the inevitable fear of losing her "stripper boobs."

Having no full length mirror in the rented apartment, she spared herself from the truth of the matter; losing the weight she had put on during her pregnancy was not going to happen overnight, or even that year in fact. A summer vacation at the in-laws would be the turning point. Particularly one casual snapshot of her frolicking in the waves with her picture perfect Gap baby.

She was fat.

A slim respectable 110 pounds on her wedding day had morphed into a 160 pound 'before' ad for Weight Watchers. She sat devastated at what she saw in the photograph. She knew that she wasn't huge by all means, but she didn't recognize the woman in the picture. She had always been the "skinny one" and this revelation of moving up the scale was undeniable and undesired.

"What am I going to do?" she wondered, making an ill-fated hormonal choice that the best thing to do was to get pregnant again, so her protruding stomach at least had a purpose.

To her delight, she had a bit more self control during her second pregnancy and the scale only grew 50 pounds. This said, with the additional pre-pregnancy weight, she was the size of a whale.

Another healthy baby in tow, she vowed to reclaim her body when the initial nursing was done, this time sped up by a looming wedding reception that was to take place on daughter number two's sixth month birthday. 

She joined Weight Watchers and found herself at the local chapter meeting, dutifully sitting through the hour long speech about "eating with boundaries",  learning the point system and purchasing all the required books and pamphlets that would her her "shed the pounds." She found strength in knowing that she was not alone in her struggle and promised that she would make a sincere effort to stick to the plan. She did stick to the plan and lost seven pounds in the first two weeks. Then she discovered the miracle of the "Atkin's Diet" and nearly went mentally insane with graphs and total consumption over carbohydrate grams, but succeeded in shedding another 25 pounds in time to make her grand entrance at the wedding reception. 

Now, one might think that this would be the end of her quest, but another pregnancy would be discovered a mere six months later and while she did contain herself from the overabundant smörgåsbord of her previous pregnancies, weight gain was inevitable and so she found herself again struggling to balance the nutrition needed to sustain a healthy baby and her knowledge that she could very easily spin out of control with her eating habits.

Perhaps it was running after two toddlers that kept her somewhat fit and unconsumed by the death-trap she called her kitchen.Or perhaps it was the boy that grew inside of her that biologically changed the physiology of her body. She was not new age enough to understand what changed in her. She only knew that this last pregnancy was by far her most successful when it came to the dreaded scale.

The next fall, she found herself stepping out of the shower, toweling off a body that had not been in her presence for nearly five years. Yes, there was extra hanging skin that is never attractive,  but this could be easily disguised in the right clothing. Her breasts, still full with nutrition looked alright in the mirror. It was the fact that she could see a curve in her waist that delighted her the most. She tentatively stepped on the scale,something she never did unless she was actively dieting and was amazed to find that she had lost all the baby weight and then some, all without opening one book, or denying herself one extra craved carbohydrate. She felt resigned to the fact that after three babies, her body had changed and would never be that of a 26 year old bride again, but felt content in most of what she saw reflected back at her.

"Okay, I think I can live with this," she told herself. " I might even attempt bringing the kids to the pool this summer."

Now living in the mid-west in the state known for it's great cheese and sausage, she knew that she was by far on the low end of any comparison scale.She decided that if she just maintained, she could be happy. This was all said and done until her son turned three, just four months shy of her 35th birthday.

And while she had never been one to shy away from getting older,crying over the end of her twenties or living in fear of the big 3-5, she wished someone would have keyed her in to the fact that physically, 35 is a major turning point.

She could no longer eat without questioning the fat or calorie content of particular delicacies that she had never though of before.

She knew that the scale could and would swing at any moment without diligent observation of herself and her eating habits. She could no longer rely on "good genes" to keep herself in check. She needed to start to exercise to maintain the current state of her body. With this knowledge, she found herself packing up all three kids into her beige mini-van and steering herself toward the local YMCA.

It is here that she found herself each morning, glued to the individual mini television set posted above the tread mill or elliptical machine. It is here that she has brought herself to endure the pain brought upon her by a young, chipper spandex clad girl named Stacy.

It is here that she discovered that beneath the multi-colored baggy sweat suits of the women in this torture room simply disguised with a simple black and white photocopied sign entitled "Totally Toned", are women with their own stories, and most often these stories have nothing to do with the numbers that appear on the scale.


Today was the first hot day of the year, truly hot to the point that I allowed the girls to put on bathing suits and go outside. Today I am reminded that I have not been to the gym in nearly three months and summer is fast approaching... maybe I should rethink my priorities.... maybe eating ice cream in bed tonight while watching tv on the internet is not the greatest plan of attack... 

No comments:

Post a Comment