“Mom, have you noticed your metabolism slowing down as you’ve gotten older?” my 16-year-old son George asked me late one night as we were sitting in the kitchen together.
He was dripping with sweat following a 5-mile run, which had merely been the cherry on top of his day, which had also included four hours of football practice and a weightlifting session in our basement.
I palmed another handful of M&Ms into my mouth and looked up from the obituaries I was reading in the newspaper.
“Let me put it to you this way,” I replied. “When you were little, I used to go running almost every night with a couple friends.
“We would leave at 8:30, after all our kids were in bed, and we would run for 3 or 4 miles – even if we were dead tired, or it was pouring rain, or we were in the middle of a snowstorm.”
He looked at me expectantly. “You couldn’t pay me a million dollars to do that now,” I continued. “Is that because my metabolism has slowed down? Or have I just gotten lazy and don’t care as much anymore?
“I have no idea. But there’s no way I’m putting on spandex and heading out into the night for a run at this point in my life.”
How I feel about my body – and what I’m willing to put it through – has certainly changed over the years.
I was looking through a box of old school papers the other day, and I came across an assignment I had completed in seventh grade, a binder titled “My Book of Self.”
Among other things were two lists: “What I Like About Myself” and “What I Dislike About Myself.” I groaned when I saw that, near the top of the “dislike” list, I’d written “I’d like to be thinner.”
I mean, I remember having thoughts like that in high school. But in seventh grade? When I was 12? I look back at pictures of myself in seventh grade, and I look exactly like all the other girls my age.
And yet, in my estimation, I needed to lose weight. It made me sad to think that I’ve been feeling so negatively about my body for, really, the majority of my life.
And so many women – friends, family, random people I see in restaurants – are apparently feeling the same way.
A few years ago, Logan and I sat down for dinner at a restaurant in Seattle, and tucked inside the regular menu was a much smaller “skinny” version filled with lighter options.
I instinctively reached for the “skinny” menu and then looked up and glanced around. All the women in my line of sight were looking at the “skinny” menu, as well, while all the men were poring over the regular menu as if it was the next great American novel.
That kind of made me mad. Why do women always feel the need to restrict ourselves, to not go overboard so we can fit into a certain mold?
I’m all for eating in such a way that makes your body and soul feel their best, but at what point do we accept the body shape, size and weight that we are and just order the darn onion rings?
Do we have to constantly feel like we’re “almost there” but not really where we should or want to be? This has been my battle for decades.
When George was about 1, I realized that drastic measures needed to be taken if I was ever going to lose my baby weight, so I dipped into our very limited student budget and paid for a three-month membership with Weight Watchers.
“This is going to be impossible!” I remember thinking my first night on the program as I cut myself a tiny slice of the “cheeseburger pie” I had made for dinner and loaded up my plate with carrot sticks instead.
But after a couple of weeks, the magic started to happen. I felt less hungry, and the weight started to fall off. I’d never felt better or more empowered.
And so it has gone after every baby … until now. Shall we blame the dwindling metabolism? Yes, let’s. All I know is that my baby is almost 7 years old, and I’m still not at the weight I used to be. And maybe I don’t care.
There’s a saying that goes “I wish I was as skinny as I was when I thought I was fat.” Maybe my older and wiser self will try something revolutionary and just be happy in the skin that I’m in now.
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