Growing up, I always envied my two high school friends. They were lithe and slim, with no lumps and bumps to speak of. They had no food issues. They could eat, or not eat; didn’t bother them a bit. My mother had food issues throughout her life — eating or not eating was a big deal in our house; so I grew up with a few secreted issues of my own. My friends not so. Another reason to envy. Never good for a teenage girl!
I distinctly recall being on a Weight Watcher program, courtesy of my Mum, who told me, quite often, I was too fat. My friends and I would go out somewhere and I’d tell them I couldn’t have anything to drink but water since I had already consumed my points allowance for the day. In some ways, those were not the days. Once I grew a spine, things changed somewhat and I moved forward into adulthood not caring much if I had a few extra pounds on me, or I had over-exceeded my points for the day.
Some things we throw off with abandonment in adulthood; others stay to preach and curse. I’m glad I threw off that particularly heavy cloak and managed to focus on other priorities.
Then, just a bit later… OK, much later! Nearly 40 years to be precise. My same two high-school friends and I are all in menopause and the weight seems to sit on the body just about wherever it damn well pleases. And this time it wasn’t even only me! My former willow-like buddies were puffing up and they were completely insulted by it! (Unlike me, who would roll my eyes at my given genetic line, knowing how it likes to keep extra weight on the body …) Like your slim ankles? OK, say goodbye to those! Always coveted a muscly shoulder, a commanding cheek bone or a slim tum? Nope, those are gone too. Menopause is such a toil. I am over-qualified in this department, since I am now neck deep in my seventh year of the blessed thing. Wasn’t chemotherapy enough? I cry to no one in particular; but apparently it was not. Could have committed murder seven years ago and already have been up for parole.
So, my girls and I embraced the “5:2” program. This is where you only consume 500 calories two days of the week. The rest of the week you eat “normally” — whatever that means. We were regressing back to our hunting ancestors who would have days in their week that not much could be hunted or gleaned. Those would be their “2” days. The five days were those when they were successful in catching the rabbit, killing the rabbit, eating the rabbit or rabbits — oh and then also the boar and the berries, and, in modern day life, the chips and the chocolate and the glasses of wine. Those are the good days. The “5:2” worked quite well, it seemed, but then it didn’t. “I’m on a plateau,” said one friend. “I’m gaining,” said the other. It was time for a sharp change. Our meno bodies were not decreasing in size or substance the way we had planned.
“Fasting!” said one of the friends. “That is the new 5:2!” OK, our ears were perked. I had, years ago, given up hopes of slipping into my early 30’s wardrobe, though I still had it packed — optimistically — in the back of my closet. “It’s amazing,” she gushed and went on to explain why this would work so well where the “5:2” had fallen short. I tried it and found it surprisingly easy to follow. Eat nothing for 22 to 24 hours and there you have fasted like a champ. Then you eat “normally” for a day or so and then you fast again. One of our group fasted for 36 hours straight. What? I was back at the “I-can’t-believe-you-can-eat-that-and-not-get-fat” stage of our 16th and 17th year. I couldn’t do a fast like that, I’d keel over. Then came the result of that endeavor. “I gained weight.” No, just no! She surely did not fast for 36 hours and gain weight? The mind was officially boggled.
So here we are, trying to be healthier, as we stealth towards our mid-fifties, without admitting a thing. Some things are working for us — self-confidence and a roaring sense of humor — and others — successful dieting and going back to looking like babes — less so. But what I do know is the camaraderie is the fun, the challenges unique, and I am always surprised when I go for 22 hours with no food inside me — three cups of coffee are not food — and I still feel able to go to work and manage my world.
It’s a jungle out there, I tell you. Thank goodness for wonderful old friends who cheer you through the finish line, whatever the result.
Lucy Jensen is a local Realtor, Notary Public and Animal Rescuer. Contact her at [email protected]