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Matter of Weight
Ever since grade school, when being the biggest girl in class landed me more than a fair share of snickers, I've had a difficult relationship with my weight. Kids called me all sorts of namesùPork Ball, Porcupine Rind, Jam Pudding, and worse. I pretended to laugh along with them, but went home and drowned my anger in food.
It wasn't until I turned eighteen and fell in love with a tall,
soft-spoken boy from Massachusetts that the weight slipped off. And when I married him six years later, I was a svelte 103 pounds. For someone who enjoyed food as much as I did, this was no small feat. Those were the Twiggy days, when being knitting-needle thin had become a cultural obsession; the fashion industry was relentlessly unforgiving towards natural bulges and buxom shapes.
But ôskinny" didn't last long. Within two years I gained over ten pounds, and with the birth of our first child three years later,
added another forty. The old grade school angst returned, and I decided to wage
my own holy war against the bulge. I took up running, beginning with a brisk walk around the block, and then doubled my efforts until I was able to run comfortably for two miles without stopping. By the end of the year, I had shed thirty pounds and was permanently hooked on running. It made me feel brisk and clean, like a colt; it allowed me to eat what I wanted and still keep the weight manageable.
As long as I pounded the pavement for fifty minutes, five times a week, I was able to keep my weight within an acceptable range.
Still, I fretted over every bite. My husband, much more relaxed about body shape, said, "I wish you could just enjoy being what you are.
You carry so much guilt about what you do and what you look like that you aren't enjoying life at all!"
"But I feel so fat!" I countered.
"I have a suggestion. Get rid of your scale."
I did, and miraculously discovered that my body had its own way of finding balance. I moved from "how much I weigh" to "how I feel." For several years, I ate when I was hungry and ran not because I had to, but simply because I loved the sense of exhilaration it gave me. I didn't choose one activity to cancel out the other, but did both because they fed my soul. And even though I didn't know exactly how much I weighed, I was content because my clothes remained a comfortable fit.
Then everything changed the year I turned fifty. My husband passed away after an eleven-month battle with cancer. Food became a different kind of issue during his illness, when his body refused to eat because the radiation had scorched his throat and he couldn't eat without pain. Day by day, I watched him shrink to a shadow.
After his death, I was plagued by a terrible loneliness. In the silence of an empty home, I ate and wept and ate again. I noticed my body becoming dumpy and thick. Despite a daily run, pockets of flesh flapped under my arms and my belly jiggled like Jello. A year later, my obsession with weight returned.
I bought a new scale, joined the local fitness club and placed myself on a high protein diet and squelched my natural enjoyment of food. I ate only what was permitted: egg whites, cheese, onions, tofu, seeds, nuts and lentils, and drank designer whey drinks. I ran six days a week and did an hour of resistance training three times a week I worked out for four weeks like a soldier, then stepped on the scale. You could have heard my scream ten miles down the road: I had gained three pounds. How was that possible?
An older friend had once said, "You just waitùthe day will come when your body will stop performing for you. It will bloat and swell and gurgle; it will rise and spread and do all the nasty things you exercise freaks are trying to keep under control. Just wait and see." I thought her eyes had gleamed with venom.
I would have believed her and turned the rest of my life into a lament were it not for a vivid dream which I took as a message from my body:
I was on a dark, stuffy train. Several people were with me, and we were on a mission of some kind. They had wrapped me up in long sheets, and placed me in the aisle. When the train stopped, the sheets peeled off, and I followed the crowd out the gates and down winding stairs towards some kind of underground cavern. The journey was long and tedious, but we finally emerged from a last flight of stairs into the depths of a cave. There, in the center, was my husband,
lying on a hospital bed. He was bone-thin, cheeks sunken, eyes hollow. I walked up to him, placed my hand over my hip and complained to him, "I can't stand it. All this work coming down here and I haven't lost a pound!"
Then I woke up, and it hit meùthat dream showed the absurd irony of my situation. My husband could barely eat at all, and all I could think about was losing weight.
The next morning I threw away the scale.
Life, I decided, was too short for weights and measures. I would run and I would eat. I would take pleasure in both. I would neither deny my body nor starve my soul. I was going to love my body in whatever shape and form it took. My body was here to serve a higher purpose, my soul's purpose, and my soul was not here to be shaped or stuffed into a standard mold.
¬2003. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Chicken Soup to Inspire the Body & Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Dan Millman,
Diana von Welanetz Wentworth. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc.,
3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.