Every woman has a dress that makes them feel like a woman. I have a dress that has been in the back of my closet for quite awhile. It is one of those dresses that bring with it a wave of compliments; when you wear it people see you differently. The last time I wore it even though the usual compliments followed, it was uncomfortable – a little too tight in the hips and I had an overwhelming fear of breaking a zipper or bursting a seam. Today, I decided to pull out this tried and true people pleaser. As I slipped it on, I no longer felt the pulling at the seams. In fact it just hung there, barely touching any part of my body. Instead of a body enhancer it was nothing more than a loose shift. My suspicions were confirmed, I had lost weight.
I’m not one of those women who steps on the scale every day (or twice to three times a day). I only step on the scale at the doctor’s office and for a long while I would ask to turn my back and have them write down the number and only tell me if it was a problem. My aversion to the scale came from a short stint on my high school gymnastics team where we were weighed before practice and after practice, assigned an ideal weight, had our fat measured by tiny metal calipers pinching our underarms, and subsequently punished for every pound over our “ideal” by being given flights of stairs to run, push-ups to perform and a series of other physical tortures. I never did reach the “ideal” weight no matter how little I ate or how hard I worked. That episode was followed by my dance years where my body shape was frequently called into question. My thighs were too round, my back too arched, and my derriere too large. Again, the dressing room scales waited to send their prognosis along with the mirrors that confirmed that this body would never be a ballerina. I finally vowed to get rid of the scale once and for all and go by how I felt as my guide to the “ideal.”
A month ago at my last doctor’s appointment I defied my usual strange protocol and watched the digital display calculate my weight. Today, I found the little used scale tucked under the bed, wiped the thick layer of dust from the readout and stepped on and awaited the truth. I had lost seven pounds in the past month. At any other time in my life that would call for a celebration, but in this case the weight loss has been pronounced and fast. Yes, I’m training for a marathon but that is old news. I’ve trained for four previous marathons over the past three years and I’ve dropped a pound or two and lost inches due to muscle toning and fitness, but this represented a 6% melt down.
I decided to wear my shapeless shift anyway (once you commit, commit all the way) and stopped by my local coffee shop located in the mecca of Amazon.com headquarters where clientele and staff represent an average age of 25. The barista looked at me and finally asked, “Are you the runner?” I still don’t see myself in that light, but hey, today was a day for committing so I affirmed that I had run a few marathons and was training for the New York City marathon in the fall. She explained that she had just done her first marathon and she was trying to keep up her fitness level. “I want to look like you, what’s your secret? Do you follow a special training/diet plan?” That is quite a statement coming from a 25 year old to a 52 year old. I shared that intensity can replace longevity and to keep your body on its toes, you had to mix things up. She looked at me as if I was some sort of guru; if she only knew.
Overall, my current analysis is that my shapeless shift didn’t have the same impact as it did in the past, most probably because I look like a slight girl playing dress up in my mother’s closet. I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a while.
“Wow, have you lost weight? What’s your secret?”
As much as I wanted to blurt out: three square meals of heartache, pain and suffering, I obfuscated. No one wants their compliment returned with a blues ballad.
“I’m training for the Olympics. They start on Friday.”
That always gets a laugh and offers the perfect opportunity to change the subject. And if that doesn’t work, I just say I’m in marathon training. That tends to leave people pretty speechless. I do find myself wondering if people really think you haven’t noticed your own weight loss. Perhaps we could come up with a few self-help clues for those of us who are so unaware. For example:
You know you’ve lost weight when. . .
· You think panty suspenders are a good idea.
· You wonder why they don’t put belt loops on yoga pants.
· Having prominent cheekbones makes you look more like a refugee than a model.
· You wonder if you can still fit into your high school prom dress.
· Putting your briefcase on the passenger seat triggers the seat belt warning alarm before you do.
· You can slip through the crowd unnoticed.
· You no longer leave footprints in the sand. (Either that or you have read too many Twilight books.)
· You can remove your jewelry without the aid of soap and water, and/or a vice grip.
But the fact is that even though I’m in training, the weight loss is more an outcome from the loss of my usual ravenous appetite than the accumulation of miles run. The stress and havoc in my life has had a strange after-effect. I no longer crave salted caramels as a reward. Gone is the pumpkin bread with my coffee or chocolate chip cookies with my tea in the afternoon. Changes in my schedule and life circumstances have presented many solo meals. I’ve decided if I’m not hungry I will at least opt for something healthy. Gone are the rich, calorie-heavy meals or desserts. Consuming calories isn’t as much fun when you’re dining alone. I’ve opted to stick to water as my preferred beverage and to use fruits and vegetables as the default when faced with well-meaning friends impersonating Italian mamas imploring me to “eat.” I try and humor them when I say I’m angling for a whole new wardrobe.
I’ve come to the realization that losing it while you’re “losing it” be it because of stress, family issues, heartache and/or depression does have a rather odd side-effect. It unearths new items from your wardrobe. It promises a change whether you are ready for it or not. And it acts as a mask attracting compliments and accolades when all you really need is a big quart of your favorite ice cream, your best friend and two spoons.
© Kelly Tweeddale 2012