Thinking, Again…

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Do you think we’re a little weight-obsessed?

Several years ago, a man working with the public here on the island went – over a period of several months – from a sturdy and strong but a little-bit paunchy middle-aged person to a lean, if a bit haggard-looking one. “You look great,” he heard time and time again. “What are you doing to lose all that weight?” It turned out, he had an aggressive cancer, and only a short time to live.

My daughter, who was always just plump enough to frustrate her, slimmed down over a difficult period that included a pregnancy plagued with gestational diabetes, a divorce, a move, and caring for a newborn. She ran into an old friend, who had also recently been divorced after a long marriage, and suffered all the trauma usually associated with it. As they hugged and exchanged pleasantries, they admired each other’s sleek figures. “No doubt about it,” my daughter said, “divorce looks damn good on a woman!”

I have a friend whose mother struggled with her weight for most of her life. She regularly attended a weight-loss support group, where the participants were put on a scale each week, to note pounds lost. They recognized the biggest loser by giving them a crown to wear during the rest of the meeting. When she got sick, she swore her daughter to secrecy. She wanted the members of her group to think she was dropping pounds due to determination and hard work, not from the effects of cancer and chemotherapy. She carefully dressed and did her make-up, and covered her bald head before each session. One day, when my friend picked her up from the meeting, she grumbled, “I’d have gotten the crown today, if it weren’t for the weight of this damn turban!”

I went sailing once, as part of a three-person crew in a 29-foot sailboat, in late October. We traveled from Beaver Island’s harbor in Lake Michigan, through the straits of Mackinac, and down the length of Lake Huron to Port Huron. There were a million things to marvel at and leave an impression, from the big bowl of stars that was the night sky, to the quiet and calm taking turns with raging waters, to five days of seasickness. When I tell the story, though, I always mention that I lost two pounds a day.

Similarly, when my sister died suddenly, and I went down-state to help take over her job of caring for my mother at the end of her life, the emotions and experiences altered my life and my way of looking at the world. I could go on and on – and probably have – about that precious and awful time. I always note – as one good thing in the midst of so much sadness – that I lost ten pounds in two weeks.

I know of two women, beloved by all for their kindness and generosity of spirit, beautiful both inside and out, who see their weight as a big failure in life. And I know they’re not alone. I remember the old experiment that asks participants to not think of an elephant; suddenly, they can think of nothing else. I don’t think weight is unimportant; general health and overall well-being are directly related to the weight we carry. I just think we need another obsession.

About cindyricksgers

I am an artist. I live on an island in northern Lake Michigan, USA. I have two grown daughters, four strong, smart and handsome grandsons and one beautiful, intelligent and charming granddaughter. I live with two spoiled dogs. I love walking in the woods around my home, reading, writing and playing in my studio.

9 responses »

  1. Cindy…new to your blog. Hello from Alabama! This entry on weight was exactly what I needed today. I have struggled with the same 20 lbs for 15 years. After much research, I recently became convinced that I must have hypothyroidism. When my blood work came back this week showing that my thyroid was functioning normally, I called my daughter in Montana, a nurse, and expressed my huge disappointment. After all, I thought I had found the miracle cure to my problem! In her wisdom, she gently asked me to consider looking inward to discern why I would prefer thyroid disease over accepting my appearance. Out of the mouth of babes! So, I have been giving it some serious thought. Your use of the word obsession rings true to me. I am loathed to admit my level of vanity! What precious time and energy (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) I have wasted striving to look differently than I do! I think it is time for me to let go of my obsession with weight and perhaps focus instead on all the wonderful aspects of who I am that have taken a backseat for so long! I suspect that won’t be quick and easy transition, but awareness is the first step. Thank you for the timely entry! Nothing is a coincidence! Lee

    • Thank you so much, Lee, for taking the time to write! I remember, similarly, being thrilled to hear I had hypothyroidism, thinking that treatment for that ailment was going to finally rid me of the extra twenty pounds I was carrying. It didn’t. I can’t help but think that keeping this forefront in our minds might be also contributing to the problem. In any case, it is certainly a waste of time and energy to let it spoil an otherwise good life! Thanks for your comments!

  2. What a thoughtful and sensible post, Cindy. Like many women I struggle with my weight … some days I moan about it, others I just think to hell with it, I’ve earned a little middle aged spread.

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