Monday, July 30, 2012

The body question

Age 49: Day 2

Here I am at 49. Same imperfect body. Same question: Is now finally the time to tackle my body issues? And what, exactly, does tackling my body issues mean? One could say that it means finally, FINALLY getting rid of those extra 20-odd pounds that have dogged me since, oh, my 13th birthday, give or take. I've had decades of relative slimness and decades of downright chubbiness, but somehow, I'm always heading from one to the other, never quite comfortable in my skin. And as I look effin' 50 in the face (as the 20-somethings say) the question is: What do I want to do about this?
I know many women who, not coincidentally, are hovering around 50, just like me, and who are undergoing last ditch body transformations. Take my sister. She and her husband recently embarked on a running program called Couch to 5K and after 20 years of a pretty low-key fitness regimen, she and her husband are now doing regular 3 mile runs at sub-10 minute miles and basically kicking my butt. Me, who has been faithfully running around the reservoir for those same 20 years. (Granted, the only people I pass are people who are walking, but still.) I had lunch with another friend the other day who, after 8 years of devoting most of her mental, emotional and physical energy to her 8 year old son (she took the leap and became a mother on her own), dropped 20 pounds on the eve of her own 50th. "I'm ready to date again," she told me. "Something has woken up in me." Looking at her, at her newly revealed waist line and the emerging muscles in her arms, I felt both inspired and envious. Because I've also thought that 49 was the year to finally just freaking DO IT already. Get the body I want.
Or not.

When I was single, I used to secretly roll my eyes at married women who complained about their weight. Though I'd nod and smile sympathetically, as women do, inside, I was thinking: "What do YOU have to complain about? You're MARRIED! You have someone who loves you, whatever you look like. You don't have to be out there, describing your body type on dating sites, trying to stand out in the candy store that is the NYC dating scene!" (Okay, maybe I was a little bitter.)

Now that I have someone who loves me, and is attracted to me, and is happy to lie down next to me at night, I wonder: Is this body thing, these extra 20 pounds...are they still worth thinking about? Is it time to really put my mind to it, to push myself on those desultory runs or on my weekend swims across the lake, where I'm spending most weekends these days? Wouldn't it be nice to put all this emotional energy elsewhere and just...not think about it? I'm not talking about giving up or letting myself go. I'm talking about letting myself off the hook. Because how important is 20 pounds, anyway?

Then again, there's the lure of the hard body. It's now or never.

What do you think? (below, a glimpse of the lake I swim across--very slowly, on my back, while looking at the clouds) and hammock I would like to be lying on. Sigh.


  1. Paula--WHAT IS THIS,you look great! Maybe we should understand at this age that it's about health over looks, and/or that beauty is defined by how well we've aged over the years rather than whether the 20 year old brain's ideal can possibly be met.
    Every time I see you, I notice how pretty you are and how intelligent/fun/nice you are. So many things matter so much more at this point in life than "that body"--at least that's my opinion. Do I want to give up great food for an ideal? NO. Do I want to be healthy and fit? Yes. Can I combine them--yes, but probably like so many other things at this age, you can either have balance in your life and not be outstanding in one area, or you can be outstanding in one area at the noticeable sacrifice in others. To me, balance is more important and much healthier--although saying that during the week of the Olympics is harder to believe. To me, taking things in stride and enjoying life is what makes someone beautiful at our age.
    You look so great. You've got me beat on the running, so I think you're doing fabulously.
    I believe the real question (at least as women) we face at this age is
    When will we allow ourselves to actually feel that we are THERE and not WORKING ON BEING THERE?
    Will we EVER let ourselves off the hook and say I am Great just as I am? Then we would be men! (ha)

    1. Meredith--All I have to say to this is...Amen, sistah! :-)
      I feel as if this post ended up more negative than I meant it to be but I guess that's how I'm feeling at the moment. But love your feedback and appreciate these inspiring and wise words. Paula

  2. Paula, i feel that you and I have a lot of similarities. I just turned 49 also and have spent every day of my life, since I was 15, worrying about what i weighed and how my body looked. Also, having gotten married only six yrs ago, I also experienced the envy/wonderment of the "married" women and how could they even complain when they had what i desperately wanted. I think being comfortable in your body is a hard place to get to. It would be so easy to just stop the dieting/exercise/self deprecation, but after so many years it's too ingrained. All i know, is i hear it's going to get harder to maintain your weight after menopause, so now is the time to do it.

    I think your blog is great and I'm looking forward to sharing this year with you.


  3. It's now not just about "being hot" or ready to be ogled. I started to get more serious about fitness this year too (I'm 20 days behind you on your journey), because it's really the last chance to get fit before your body starts to deteriorate from age. I've taken fitness issues for granted over the years and now I feel I have to catch up. It's less about attractiveness for me. I see myself in training for my old age. They say you start to lose muscle mass at around 35 and exercise and strength training can prevent this. The statistics say I may live to 90 so that's the real marathon I'm now training for.

  4. Love the idea of training for old age. To be clear, I wasn't talking about giving up working out. I strength train, I swim, I run and I do most of these things every week. But I also eat ice cream. And drink wine. The question is: Is it worth depriving myself to get my idea body by 50?

  5. Since you brought it up, I'm curious: Did you lose weight for your wedding? How did that feel? Motivating? Like deprivation? Did you put on weight in your first year of marriage? Interesting about your comments that married women don't need to worry about their bodies. Thoughts?

  6. Lisa--Just saw this. I did lose weight the whole year before my wedding, but I was doing the Pleasure Diet, so I tried not to deprive myself. In fact, deprivation doesn't work for me--always leads to binging, and I finally know that. But yes, it was definitely motivating (as was writing a diet piece in a national magazine)