Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fast Forward Twenty Years

"You want to get pregnant at that weight?" my physician asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Well, I was thinking about it," I responded somewhat sheepishly.

"No. You need to lose weight. Exercise every day," she said. "Every. Day," she added for emphasis.

I could have been mad. But my doctor is a young woman with two small children. And, she's, you know, a doctor. So arguments like "It's so hard" and "I just can't find the time" probably ring false with her.

Plus, she is right. She has known me for a while. Last night I finally broke down and bought three pairs of size 10 work pants on sale at I know size 10 is a perfect size for some of you. I know that some of you wish you could be small enough to fit into a size 10. I understand. I certainly do not want to come off sounding like that woman at BlogHer '13 who humble-bragged complained in front of a room of 5,000 other bloggers that she had a "paltry 5,000 followers" on Twitter.

I've written elsewhere about self-compassion and positive body image. I know I sound like a cloying hypocrite. But for someone who was a size 2 ten years ago, buying a size 10 sure feels like defeat.

"I need to find time to exercise," I told Rayne, after the shame of being told by a doctor -- for the first time in my life -- that I needed to lose weight finally subsided. "Maybe I can see if I can use the gym at work."

I like to say I am a writer, and it's true, I do get paid a little for stuff I write. But approximately 99.6% of my income comes from what I do in real life, which is healthcare consulting. Right now I am working part-time at a behavioral health facility that has 28-day residential programs in addition to inpatient beds. There is a gym, mainly for the residential patients, but staff is allowed to use it after hours.

Going to the gym this evening meant leaving Henry to fall asleep at a babysitter's house, only to then be awoken, strapped into the carseat, driven home and put back to bed. I tried not to let the guilt snake strangle my resolve.

I was the only one at the gym, which was really a fitness area at one end of a high-school style gymnasium. The languid teenager/attendant tried not to fall asleep at the desk. I chose the Elliptical machine, because I despise running on a treadmill and there were no free weights.

I had been under the impression that "staff" hours in the gym meant staff only. I was, to my dismay, wrong.

After about ten minutes of sweating in place, I saw a gaggle of teen girls arrive with their social worker. (Honestly, they were probably more like 22 or 23, but who's counting?) They stopped dead in their tracks upon seeing me. The social worker asked the "attendant" who I was. Then she turned to the girls and said something. The girls shrugged, in that nonchalant, noncommittal way girls do. Still, they lingered, gaping at the chubby, middle-aged mom they never wanted to become working out alone to the "top hits" station playing on the radio.

Then they forgot all about me, as well they should have. They played volleyball, badminton and fooz ball, giggling and prancing around. I finished my workout -- even during the "cool down" period, the machine still registered my heart rate in the "cardio" zone -- stretched and got into my car, unchanged, for the long commute home.

Is it trite to say that you could not pay me enough money to return to that age -- be it 15 or 22 -- with its concomitant insecurity and grasping? Is it patently obvious that I do not want to be those girls, with their eating disorders, bipolar depression and borderline personality disorders -- the conditions that brought them to a residential psych facility in the first place?

In the ten years since I was a size 2, I met and married the love of my life, ran two marathons, saw Angkor Wat at sunset, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and gave birth to my soul's creation. I would never give any of that up.

And yet. Despite the common sense my intellect espoused, my ego and I admit to being envious of their lithe bodies and ashamed of my doughy, dimpled thighs. I, too, had been sure, so sure, that I would never let myself get so out of shape. Fast forward twenty years.

Image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS /