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My friend Molly - AB - is probably 10 years older than I, and the other day she was explaining that the 20 lbs. she'd lost on Weight Watchers had "come back". She's headed to Florida soon for a family reunion where, she says, she expects to gain yet a bit more weight. She said something that struck me, echoing a thought I'd entertained before: "This is me. This is how I look. I'm no glutton, but I'm certainly not trying to look younger or like an athlete or actress,"
People (women, in particular) often gain weight over the course of our adult lives, according to a genetic pattern. Life insurance company guidelines in fact allow for a certain amount of such weight gain, indicating a fairly broad range of accepted weights. Throughout history, people in their 50's and 60's were not (unlike us) working out in gyms or INCREASING their physical output, let alone appearing less and less aged.
Some sobriety is called for when we look at ourselves, and others, in midlife. We are a generation saturated and besotted with TV and movie images; we have artificial "ideals" and role models. Molly's physique is not her livelihood, so, unlike her peers in the public eye, she can be 100% honest-Molly-in-the-flesh and not lose her job, say. While the morbidly obese can be in grave medical danger, those of us grown-ups who are simply somewhat overweight, or just heavier than we were 20 years ago,may be extraordinarily well-occupied otherwise.
My readership is well aware of this pet peeve of mine, here on a health/diet-oriented website; I am convinced that good physical health is but one possible ingredient in a Life-Well-Lived. I've known people suffering from poor -even tragic- health who've been kind, generous, brilliant, courageous, and plenty of other things that, to my mind, make them memorable and important individuals, without whom the world would have been much poorer. And I know plenty of self-absorbed, uninspiring people who keep themselves utterly buff, not to mention "lifted", as if living to be featured on some vapid TV-makeover show. I usually don't remember their names... I'm actually of the opinion that later eras will look back on these obsessions, including that of celebrity/fame for mere TV sitcom actors, to find us seriously askew.
Me? I'm currently on the heavy side, but that's FAR from my most immediate or pressing concern. Yes, I could stand to lose 20 lbs, as can Molly. Nevertheless I'm spending myself in numerous other and important ways. (Often I work with a new mom who's a "fashionplate" and is yearning to "get her figure back" early in the postpartum, so she can look like she DIDN'T just have a baby?)
Genes? My grandmothers were both vital, active, attractive women with "great figures" in youth, more "full-figured" in midlife and later. I'm really glad they weren't weight-obsessed, as were the moms of some of my childhood friends, with calorie charts taped (pre-magnets) to the refrigerator. Indeed, some of my loveliest memories of both women include their excellent, and generous, cooking. They also had That Feeling of worth and peace, sourced in considerations other than slenderness, or even wellness! Both women lived into their mid-eighties.
I once had lunch with a lady who appeared to be only slightly my senior, when I was, oh, 40 or so. She confessed to being 62 and having had alot of --excellent-- plastic surgery. But she admitted she was unable to stop; she was single and had met men who'd guess (as did I) she was much younger, and so, in order to keep up the charade in light of her relationships'...progress... she'd run to the OR for tummy, thigh, and breast work. She looked vital --even fantastic--(clothed), but she sounded haggard, demoralized. Surgery is still surgery, and harder to recuperate from later in life; and living a lie was leading her to despair.
I think good health is important, insofar as it enables one to continue in good works. But, even there, it's not essential. Many of the world's greatest contributors didn't live very long. In fact, as longevity increases from century to century, we're not necessarily becoming better, finer human beings with a LESS socially troubled society.
For many, midlife is when we face mortality: Our friends have heart attacks and bypasses, cancer, diabetes and other increasingly-prevalent-with-age conditions, from varicose veins to cataracts. If we haven't learned What Matters by age 50 or so, if we're obsessed with Perfect Health just to achieve a greater number of years' longevity, then we're but hoarders of a commodity mislabeled "Life", frustrated "Ponce de Leon"s, mirage-chasers.
Do you want That Feeling? (Perfect health doesn't provide it! Nor does beauty.) Molly's looking forward to it when she sees her beloved family in Florida, over a number of meals, surely. She's being realistic: She could gain some weight there, weight she'll try, to some extent, to lose later. But Molly cuts herself slack, because (did I mention?) she's kicked cancer and alcohol; she "shouldn't" even be alive! And she's quite a dame, the kind no diet can deliver.
Remember to have priorities that transcend Health, which is just one means to a greater end, one tool in your God-given belt. If, in spite of all of your efforts and knowledge, you should lose your health, live in such a way that all is not lost, that you are not deemed a failure, especially of the moral kind; in such a way that, fit or not, your departure will be mourned by those you've served and known. If in your life you invest too heavily in cheating Death and Decay, your INEVITABLE defeat will appear all the more ironic or even pathetic. Having done your best at the grocery store, go and live your life.
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