fitness, fatness, whatever!

By Deb Baer Becker
Woman Newspapers

I’m at all ends, frustrated with my weight, specifically the fat jelly-roll around what used to be my waistline. I can think of a couple of valid reasons for my thick middle, but I’m worried that my body’s expansion is slipping out of control.

When I look in the mirror I imagine my ancestors, hearty thick-waisted peasant women with aprons, bare feet, and woolen knickers; generations of women who ate porridge and bacon grease — food that sticks to your ribs — and my middle age spread is filling in that DNA predestined silhouette quite nicely.

Just a few months ago I danced my way through the work week with energy-infused and sweaty Jazzercise classes. This worked for me, and what I mean by that is I was maintaining my weight. And just to be clear that weight was not date weight, or pre-children weight, or Oh-my-God-I-lookfabulous-weight, but rather a normal weight for a middle-aged woman of my stature. I was healthy, happy, and living a full and wonderful life.

Then I injured my foot and my fitness turned to fatness. 

The only exercise I could do without pain was restorative yoga, one hour of healing poses, my

body draped over a bolster cushion like a boneless chicken.

My doctor X-rayed my foot, told me I had a fracture, and sent me to a specialist. 

It was January, and I sat in the podiatrist’s examination chair, fiddling with the knobs to try to raise the leg pad so I could elevate my aching foot. I estimated my healing time: four weeks, and I’d be back at Jazzercise. I thought I had it all figured out. 

Dr. Dennis entered the exam room, my X-rays in his hand. He put them up on the X-ray light box and showed me the fractured bone. He told me the break had already healed.

“Great!” I said, “So I should be back on my foot really soon, right?”

“Well, not exactly,” he said, and lifted my foot with his hand. “You have nerve damage.” He touched the top of my foot with his finger, and ran it along the exact area where I felt intermittent burning pain.

“But, how long until I can go back to Jazzercise?” I said.

“I recommend a season of gentle yoga,” said Dr. Dennis, and he lowered my foot placing it

gently on the elevated pad.

A season of yoga. Ha! No cardio? How will I offset all of the calories from the season of Valentine’s Day chocolates? What about Girl Scout season? They stalked grocery store entrances like perfume snipers with their damned cookies — and right after that was Hershey’s Candy-Coated-Milk-Chocolate-Eggs-season!

“You should see an improvement by May,” he added brightly, over top of his glasses and patted my foot.

“May?!” I said, “I’ll gain 20 pounds by May!”

“Patience, my dear, patience. Nerve pain is tricky. It takes a long time to subside,” Dr. Dennis said as he slipped through the doorway, and disappeared from the room.

Patience my foot! I thought.

He also prescribed a daily rotation through frumpy footwear: sneakers, Birkenstocks, and chunky clunkys. Really old lady shoes. No heels, no pointed toe flats with their tight toe boxes, no thong sandals.

These days I go to my closet to visit my fancy shoes with the same reverence as art lovers at a gallery. I trace my finger over the infinity circles of the bows that top my cherry patent leather peeptoe heels. Or I’ll take the lid off the box so I can see my favorite summer Caribbean blue and white striped strappy wedges. And always, I’ll take down my Ivanka Trump animal-print silver-studded sling-back kitten heels, place one on my healthy foot, and vamp around for a minute. My Ivankas are so pretty that one night my dashing Hubster picked me up, carried me across a dirty snow and slush covered sidewalk, and delivered me through the intended restaurant’s door, while the seated patrons watched and swooned at his gallant gesture. Those were some swanky days, my friend. 

I think I might be in good company if the increased number of celebrities hawking Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and Nutrisystem television commercials are an indication of how America’s weight loss dreams are dashed by sugar and french fries and bread — I heart bread.

Most annoying is that Atkins’ spokeswoman Sharon Osbourne when she says, “With Atkins you can,” through a face so modified by plastic surgery and Botox and injected goop that she speaks like she’s whistling through ill-fitted dentures. Can’t she just accept that she’s getting older?

A valid contributor to my thickening middle is my daily anti-estrogen pill, which reduces my chance of a breast cancer recurrence. It sets my estrogen level at just about zero, the estrogen level of women much more senior than me. When I first started taking it, my oncology nurse, Dixie, told me that some of her patients bitch about that pill; they say it makes them fat. I said, “Ha! They should just be grateful for their lives.”

When I became really miserable the Hubster suggested I consider swimming. Water provides resistance, and I wouldn’t have to bear any weight on my foot while I swim. So I took the plunge and I joined the YMCA. A personal trainer suggested I try the Y’s deepwater aerobics class. Water aerobics! It will be all seniors, I thought. But the chance to get a good workout overruled my negative anticipation, and general ignorance. I showed up early for the Wednesday night class. When I walked out on the pool deck and placed my towel on a plastic chair, I noticed several senior women floating and rolling through the water like manatees. I put on a float belt and stepped down the ladder into the water. The weightlessness felt wonderful on my whole body. I felt lighter in spirit, too. The instructor started the class by making us form a circle. She told us to jog, and then run in place. We swung our arms and ran in the deep water with our legs. Next was cross-country skiing. We made long sweeping motions with our arms and kicked our legs. We did all manner of exercises, and I felt exhilarated and out of breath.

I looked at the women in my circle. They didn’t look like manatees at all. And not all of these women were seniors. But the senior women in my circle looked strong and graceful and dignified. That’s when I knew I was in the right class.