I don't remember where, but I once read that most women will spread out around the middle at some point during their 40's or 50's even if they don't actually gain any weight. I felt very dismayed to imagine that I could successfully maintain a nice low weight but still end up looking fat.
Well, it's happening. I spent Christmas Day enjoying the incredible buffet and dessert table at the Lockwood Restaurant in the Palmer House Hotel (downtown Chicago), but it will be my final indulgence for a while because it's time to get serious. Again.
Seven years ago I was working as a secretary (administrative assistant, yeah, yeah) at Arthur Andersen, doing the deskjob SPREAD. Regular goodies around the office had me on a path to obesity and I was doing as the Romans do. When that job eventually went down the drain (thank you, Enron. Thank you, David Duncan), I took stock of the situation and realized I needed to lose about 15 pounds to get back to a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). At that point I was 36.
Over the next two years I increased my weekly exercise time, stepped up the workouts, cut down on the sweets, increased the fruits and vegetables and other healthy stuff, and committed to only eating when actually hungry. I worked with a personal trainer and also my doctor because adjustment of my anti-depressants was also necessary.
After two years, I achieved my goal: I got rid of those 15 pounds and I've kept them off. I think this confirms for me that the most lasting change is often the most gradual. I didn't lose those 15 pounds in three months or even 12 months. It took a full two years. I guess that's my weightloss speed.
Now I'm 42 and proud of having maintained my workout schedule, my fewer sweets, the increased healthy foods and my healthy BMI.
But the spread is upon me. The weight is the same, but my body is redistributing it. I carry less on top and more on the bottom. Way more on the bottom. My jeans are so tight, they're barely comfortable. When I sit down, about three rolls of fat fold up along my middle. Saddlebags of extra flesh sit on my hips. My torso is enfolded in a butter-soft layer of pale, rippled, cellulite-skin. From my waist to my rear, my body is a wider pear-shape than it's ever been without a gaining a pound. It's kind of horrifying. With my clothes on, I look the same size as always, but I know what's going on underneath: I'm carrying five or ten pounds around my torso and hips that have got to go.
So, it's time to undertake another two-year fitness project, although at this age I'm sure it will be harder. Maybe it'll take four years to lose the next chunk of extra fat; it doesn't matter. I have to start. I'll shake up my workout routine, maybe hire another personal trainer, keep counting calories and stick even more closely to a healthy diet.
Actually, one important eating tip that I've only recently considered is what a big difference corn syrup and processed sugar make on the size of my appetite. I thought that as long as I appeased my sweet tooth with a peppermint hard candy (27 calories), I was ahead of the game. It turns out that if I have that hard candy, I'm starving within the hour and need to eat again. But if I appease the sweet tooth with raisins and nuts, the starving feeling doesn't happen. It's such a clear correlation, I'm surprised it took me this long to notice. So cutting out the corn syrup and processed sugar as absolutely much as possible is one more change I'm making to how I eat. I can't fool myself that I'll ever be able to eliminate it, but it's time to learn that real food is always better than anything processed with sugar.
It never ends, I guess. I just have to keep adjusting, especially since I plan to live a long time. I just hope there are enough healthy eating tips to keep me ahead of my body's willing weight-gain.