At the age of 47, I've reached that delightful time of life when making zero changes to the way I eat and exercise results in a steady creeping-up of the needle on the scale. I still take in the same number of calories, but my metabolism has changed such that the same level of activity doesn't burn them off the way they used to.
For a while, I fought against it. I tried eating less carbs and more vegetables, I tried eating smaller meals throughout the day, I tried cutting out treats, I even tried cutting back on my alcohol consumption. I tried hitting the treadmill daily. But the result of all those changes was that a) I lost minimal weight, and b) I was miserable.
I'm not particularly overweight, but I do have a few health concerns that mean my body is affected by even a few extra pounds. My rheumatoid arthritis means any extra weight forces my joints to work harder; my high blood pressure means the additional work my body has to do for even those few added pounds puts more stress on my heart. So I don't want to keep any more of these extra pounds than I have to.
But I also have to look at the flip side: What extra emotional stress am I putting on myself if I give up a lot of things that I love? What are some of the things that I like better than being thin?
I like going out for ice cream with my kids. I like having to grab their cones and lick the melty parts before they make a mess. I like getting to finish off the last few bites when they run out of appetite. I like taking turns to taste everyone else's flavors. I like the memories it brings up of my own family going out for ice cream cones in the summer.
I like sitting by the pool after the kids have gone to bed and enjoying a relaxing cocktail with my husband. I like trying new cocktail combinations, and flavoring my concoctions with fresh herbs from my garden. I like experimenting to find the perfect recipe for bourbon basil lemonade or rosemary-infused gin or mint juleps.
I like going out to dinner with my family and enjoying an extended, multi-course, well-prepared meal with a complementary glass of wine. I love spending the time teaching my children to use their "company manners" and encouraging them to try new foods. I love enjoying time with them away from home and being able to focus on them instead of on getting the meal ready, served, and cleared myself.
I like going for walks with my kids and stopping to look at everything around us instead of simply charging along for exercise. I like pausing to talk about the flowers and vegetables growing in the neighbors' gardens and the kinds of animals and birds that we see. I like challenging them to walk slowly and look for something that starts with a particular letter, or something that is a specific color. I like simply strolling and chatting when we're all focused on each other instead of paying attention to computers and toys and books.
I like teaching my kids that food is to be enjoyed. I like watching them look forward to a promised treat, and hearing them remind each other about "sometimes foods" and discussing their choices of treats. I like seeing them gradually learning to control their own thoughts and feelings about food. I want to give them a healthy outlook on food and not see it as an enemy to be controlled or fought against. I want them to see me enjoying many different foods in moderation.
I like letting my children see my imperfect body and my acceptance of it. I like hearing them tell me I'm beautiful and knowing that that word for them is not only associated with a lean, athletic, disciplined body with perfect hair and skin, but also with a muffin-topped, scarred, frizzy-haired, crooked-toothed, blemished body. I want to teach them that they are lovable and beautiful even if they don't look like society's image of a beautiful person.
Those things are all much more important to me having a happy and healthy life than shedding a few pounds.
Does that mean I'll just let myself go and not worry about that creeping scale needle? Of course not. I'll keep an eye on it and do what I have do to force it, however slowly, back in the other direction. But I won't spend my time focusing on it and stressing out about it. Because life is too short for that.