I just read a wonderful essay by Laura Lippman (the Baltimore-based mystery writer) about how as a 60-something woman, her diet plan going forward is to eat what she wants, when she wants. She is done with dieting. Be forewarned that the piece is peppered with expletives, but well worth the read. https://oldster.substack.com/p/whole-60?utm_source=post-email-title&publication_id=469928&post_id=95699994&isFreemail=true&utm_medium=email
I hear ya’, Laura. I was bemoaning my sins of sloth and gluttony at a recent appointment with a new physician’s assistant and promising that I would do my part to help lower my blood pressure. The medication I’d been taking for 15 years needed to be changed, and I felt like I deserved to be yelled at for indulging in too many carbs and not going to the gym every day. She looked at me and said, “Just wait a minute. You are 65 years old and take one medication. One. Your bloodwork is perfect. You take care of all of your preventative health check-ups. You walk and you swim. Do you have any idea how few patients I see in this office like you? Who are younger, taking multiple medications and doing absolutely nothing to improve their health on their own?”
All right then. I didn’t feel so terrible. And the fact that she was encouraging and positive makes it a little easier to get in that daily walk, pick up the free weights, or substitute a handful of raw veggies for potato chips. From the time we develop an awareness of our young bodies until we reach my age and older, women are bombarded with negativity. Don’t eat this, don’t eat that. Carbs are bad, dairy is bad, sugar is bad (ok, sugar probably is, but like our moms told us—everything in moderation.) And please spare me the recipes for chickpea pancakes and tofu lasagna. Ugh.
We should do Noom, we should do WW, we should find a “life coach” with thousands of Instagram followers, we should spend lots of money to transform ourselves into a mostly impossible and often short-lived standard of perfection, no matter how old we are. I’m not critical of anyone who has benefitted from these programs, but it’s the message that we’re never attractive enough that disturbs Laura Lippman and me. (She puts it more bluntly.) Corporations earn billions telling us we’re too damned fat.
Obesity is a serious health issue, (especially now, sadly, in children and that’s another story) but there is also an underlying message to those of us whose bodies don’t lend themselves to pencil skirts and high heels that we need to fix ourselves. “Just look at who you could be” comes through loud and clear from the svelte images on our social media feeds as if who we are is not enough. The folks I see leaving the water aerobics class at my gym are not svelte. Some may even walk with canes but they’re in the pool and moving, and most are chatting and laughing as they make their way down the hallway in front of the cardio room where I’m getting in my steps on the treadmill. Those are the images that matter.
So, am I gradually increasing my fruit and veggie intake? Yep. Trying to adjust my attitude about trips to the gym, stretching more and sitting less. Absolutely, and that’s partly because a medical professional reassured me that I was ok, that I was healthy, that I did not deserve to be judged. Good health is a genetic crapshoot, some things are beyond our control, and we do what we can to keep ourselves going. But our choices should be made based on what’s best for us and those we love, not because some talking head on social media says, “You, too, could look like me if only you would stop this willy-nilly enjoyment of food and spend money on my program.” And then if our before and after pictures are not Instagram-worthy, we feel guilty, but the company still has our money, and they’ll make even more when we come crawling back to them.
Laura Lippman and I are too old to buy into the propaganda. We’re over it. Enjoying food is not a moral failing, nor is being a double digit clothing size. We are all beautiful.