When our kids were little, we often used to go to a local buffet for dinner. I had four very picky eaters. Cooking at home usually meant two or three different meals. At times I felt like a short order cook. One child didn’t like red meat very much because it was hard to chew. A couple of them wouldn’t eat red sauce on pasta but would eat alfredo sauce. My husband didn’t like the only red sauce the kids would eat, so he would need something thicker. A simple meal of pasta used almost every sauce pan in my kitchen. At a buffet, though, someone else prepared a variety of foods from which to choose. The buffet always had chicken of some sort. That was one thing all the kids would eat. One could have the mashed potatoes and gravy she loved so much while the others could get french fries. Hubby could fill his plate with several kinds of meat that actually had flavor–something I couldn’t do because if meat had any type of seasoning or rub on it at home the kids would not touch it. Even dessert was easy at the buffet. One wouldn’t eat anything chocolate while another hated anything vanilla. Much of that pickiness has carried into their adulthoods. In hindsight, I realize that I did not do them any favors by catering to their pickiness. It denied them the chance to experience foods they assumed they wouldn’t like.
Hindsight. How easy it is to make better decisions when looking back at things.
The last month or so has found me in the hindsight mode quite often. I think part of that is just from getting older and realizing that life is, in all probability, more than half over for me. I also think part of that comes from the fact that I could be facing another serious medical diagnosis. One recurring theme of my hindsight is how often I have let others’ opinions of me shape how I think about myself. This is a way of thinking that is so easy to fall into, and if left unchecked, can wreak havoc on our lives. Often, the voices I hear contradict each other. One voice will insist that happiness can only be achieved by behaving/achieving/completing x, y, or z. Another voice will contradict the first. My most recent struggle in this arena has definitely been voices that tell me how I should feel about myself. Let me explain.
Having a chronic illness requires being on various medications. If you have ever watched those advertisements on television for various drugs, you know the side effects that can come with prescription medications. The announcer, after applauding the wonderful bonuses one will experience from said drug, moves into a faster, lower tone of voice rattling off of all the problems that same drug could cause. These problems range from simple things like headaches to very serious effects–“even death” usually ends the lengthy list. Personally, the side effects from my cocktail of medications range from minorly annoying to negatively life changing. One of the latter, unfortunately, has been unwanted weight gain. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that society screams that being overweight makes one less attractive, possibly even less worthy of love, than those who are not overweight. I think this applies even more to women than it does to men (although men are not immune from this idea by any means). Television commercials for Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, and other weight loss programs show pictures of clients who once were very overweight holding up a large pair of pants they assumedly once wore and then dropping those to show a new and improved body–slimmer, toner, fitter. While I know the truth behind these companies–that being it works as long as you keep paying for the goods and service, and on the same token, will stop working once you stop paying for the goods and service–it is still heartbreaking for me to look at those new, slimmer bodies and hate myself even more. Maybe you have experienced the following scenario: You decide to start ________________ (insert the name of any weight loss product or company here). You also add exercise to your life because the paperwork says that the program should be combined with exercise. After a few weeks, people start acknowledging that you look different. “Wow! You look great! Have you lost weight?” or “You look amazing! What are you doing to lose weight?” Has anyone EVER said to you, “Wow! You look great after putting on 25 pounds! How did you do it?” It sounds absurd because we know no one would ever compliment someone for being overweight.
What is the point of all this?
One year ago, I ran a 5K. It was the first 5K I had ever done, and I ran it with a friend who runs regularly. While I know she could have easily smoked me in time, she ran with me, encouraging me. I finished with a time that I was very happy with. People commented on how much better I looked, on how thin I was, etc. Fast forward one year. One very difficult and trying year. Worsening symptoms necessitated the addition of another medication, without which I would struggle to walk or use my hands. The most difficult side effects of that medication turned out to be fatigue and weight gain. Every morning I open the orange prescription bottle, shake out two tiny, round, white pills, and down them with a glass of water, knowing that they will continue to undo all the hard work I did last year to get ready to run a 5K. Every morning I choose between being overweight and extremely fatigued but in bearable pain or being slim and still fatigued but in unbearable pain. It is, quite honestly, a lose-lose situation for me. I’ve heard people refer to those who are overweight as lazy, gluttonous, and/or not self disciplined. While I’m sure there are many to whom those adjectives apply, I have become much more sensitive to the fact that sometimes it really is out of one’s control.
Still, society probably isn’t going to change the emphasis it places on being skinny. In fact, summer only intensifies that as it becomes acceptable for some reason to dress in clothes that barely cover. I’m sure over the next few weeks, my self hatred will intensify as I try to find a balance between being as pain free as possible all while trying to get back to where I was weight-wise.
Winter can come back anytime now.