It’s 10:30 in the morning and I’m watching my husband polish off a toasted sesame bagel topped with a generous schmear of crunchy peanut butter. Just thirty minutes earlier, he snarfed a granola yogurt parfait; two hours before that he powered through a heaping bowl of oatmeal, washed down by a mug of coffee. As Steve wipes the peanut butter from fingers and mouth, he announces that he’s going to have manicotti for lunch – at noon. Throughout the afternoon, he’ll graze: a piece of fruit and a cup of tea here, a handful of chips, almonds or crackers and cheese there. Whatever’s sitting on the counter or within easy reach in the fridge is fair game. Then, because he’s ravenous by 6:00, he’ll wolf down a full dinner and within an hour, be on the prowl for a little somethin’-somethin’ to tide him over: ice cream, a cookie or two, an O’Henry bar, an apple or orange (or all of the above).
The point of sharing my husband’s daily eating habits is this: if I ate even half of what he consumes by noon (i.e. his fourth meal), I’d need to grease my entire body in cold-pressed coconut oil so that with running start and a hefty shove from the back, my hubby could launch me like a slick watermelon pip through a door. Steve – who’s never counted a calorie in his life – maintains a healthy weight and an enviable 32” waist. If he cuts back on the groceries for one week, he’ll drop five pounds. If I cut back for five weeks, I’ll lose one pound – if I’m lucky (corollary: that pound will come off my ankles and wrists).
While it’s good he’s trim, it kind of pisses me off that it’s achieved without effort.
I’m not going to blame metabolism – made even more sluggish by “that time of life”. I’d like to because it would be so simple to blame the broadening of this broad on factors outside my control. Sadly, science doesn’t support the easy out. (Boo, Bill Nye, Science Guy!) The real culprit can be explained by imagining this smoothie: throw genetics, gender, hormones, exercise, diet and medical conditions into a blender. Add liberal dollops of life events, age, stress, willpower and all the other ingredients that are part of being a perfectly flawed human. Now hit “Frappe”.
That slurry, my friends, is your signature cocktail. You can tinker with the recipe (exercise more, make better food choices, etc.) and maybe give the one finger salute to Lady Gaga and her “I was born this way” mantra. If only I had the easy answer – I’d be even richer than Oprah since she snagged a 10% stake in Weight Watchers.
Speaking of Oprah, one thing “I know for sure” is that we get bigger as we get older. A few lucky folks escape this inevitability, but most of us – along with wilting boobs and neck meat bunching under our sagging jaws – pack on the pounds. And by the time we’re in our 50’s, we’re probably at least an inch shorter, making the height/weight ratio more cringe-inducing. Even my Jack Spratt husband is 20 pounds heavier now than in his twenties. Good thing: pretty sure I could have powered through a dozen bicep curls with the younger, scrawnier version.
Most women of a certain age – unless they’ve been kissed by the DNA fairy or are freakishly fit – lug the Menopausal Muffin Top (or MMT). Mine follows me everywhere. No matter where I go, there’s MMT, my Plus-One, the uninvited guest. She slumps on my lap like a small puppy: warm, soft and in the way.
Mattel recently unveiled “Curvy Barbie” along with other more realistic body types. Menopausal Muffin Top Barbie was absent from the new line-up.
The earliest rumblings of my eventual MMT were heard in my early 20’s. After finishing my fourth year at university and wanting to delay the looming job search, a girlfriend and I grabbed our backpacks, $2000 in traveller’s cheques and took off to explore Europe. I wasn’t a delicate little songbird, but trim enough: I probably weighed around 145 pounds (I’m 5’9”). Fast-forward six months: my parents arrived at the airport to pick up the prodigal daughter, returning from her European adventure. I skipped excitedly through Customs and emerged into the waiting area, eager to rush into the arms of my parents. I spotted my mother first, and will never be able to un-remember the expression on her face: like the San Andreas Fault, it shifted from welcoming joy to flabbergasted as a grinning, over-stuffed Weeble waddled towards Mom and Dad.
I wasn’t really aware of the weight gain: I toggled between two pairs of jeans that obediently stretched with my inflatable body as I sampled croissants in France, chocolate in Belgium, spaetzle in Germany, and wine everywhere. My travel companion and I dubbed our trip “Europe on 10,000 Calories a Day.” We overnighted in youth hostels, so there wasn’t access to scales or full length mirrors. I returned as a chunky monkey and since then – other than a few short-lived successes counting points and calories with various diet plans – my thighs still rub. Erma nails it: “I’ve dieted continuously for the past two decades and lost a total of 789 pounds. By all calculations, I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.”
And while weighing in on gains and losses, I am bemused when I wander into someone’s guest powder room and there’s a scale. I mean who, I ask you – who? – would actually say to themselves, “How handy and thoughtful! I’ve just eaten Thanksgiving dinner so now I’ll jump on a scale fully clothed and with my shoes on to see how that totted up!” Men, that’s who.
Curious Steve would step on the scale and even if the numbers were higher than he expected, wouldn’t wig out about it. (He might cut back to five meals a day instead of six and drop the extra pound or two while he slept that night). Most women I know – whether slim or oozing a MMT – require significant emotional preparation (and complete nakedness) before committing to a weigh-in. I mostly avoid the bathroom scale and rely instead on how my clothes feel. The rationalizations are epic: if my jeans are tight, well it must be the dryer.
Growing up, my siblings and I referred to our grandmothers as the “White Nana” and the “Green Nana”. Fortunately for the latter, it was kid-code for the colour of her front door, not her skin. Here’s where I’m going with this: I worry that one day, Fitz, reacting to a pronouncement by one of his dads that “We’re going to visit Grandma” will ask, “Skinny Grandma or Fat Grandma?”
That would happen only once.
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