I wake before the alarm blares. I do not run my hand over my stomach to check if it is flatter than yesterday. I stretch and happily kick off the covers, greeting the sweet beagle at my feet with a scratch behind his ear, instead of cursing him under my breath. In the bathroom mirror my reflection smiles. I do not moan at my puffy eyes or blotchy skin. My shaggy short hair is beginning to grow in and I think it looks pretty. I tap my wet toothbrush against the sink and admire my straight teeth without thinking they are not white enough.
For breakfast I do not pore over my choices, analyzing calories, carbs and protein. Instead, I make myself oatmeal, using milk not water. I toss a liberal handful of walnuts into the bowl, along with a hunk of brown sugar. I make my teenage daughter’s school lunch, which includes a sandwich on the kind of white bread she likes instead of the dry whole wheat I typically use, a small bag of chips rather than cucumber slices, some grapes and a couple of homemade chocolate chip cookies from the stash in our cookie jar. Because we have a cookie jar. With cookies in it, not salt free pretzels.
When my daughter comes downstairs, I don’t scrutinize her clothes or glance at her tummy. I offer her the toasted sesame bagel she loves, slathered with cream cheese that comes from a package without the word “lite” on it. If she wants orange juice we have it, if she prefers milk we have that too. It is not fat free. When she picks up a banana I don’t suggest she eat only half.
My day spreads before me with choices. I throw on my running shoes and jog out the front door, out into the warm May morning that belongs to me. I am not worried that I am wearing shorts and that strangers in passing cars will notice my flabby, white thighs. I breath in the delicious scent of my neighbors lilac instead of worrying that my running bra shows my “back fat” or that my arms jiggle as I move. I am running with music I love pounding through my head, propelling me forward into the sunshine. I don’t entertain thoughts that I should be lifting weights, running faster, or doing plies at a ballet barre. I simply run. I stop when I am tired and happy. I do not run until it hurts.
I shower and change without avoiding the full-length mirror. If I glance at myself it is with compassion and fondness, as if seeing an old friend. I look lovingly at my freckled shoulders. I don’t manipulate my neck so that there are no rolls or wrinkles; there is just my neck, long and graceful. I accept the lines as earned. I am fifty-six years old.
I pull up a chair at my desk to do some writing. I notice I am hungry. I don’t attempt to talk myself out of eating. I trust myself to know what hunger is. I walk to the kitchen and cut myself a slice of banana bread. It is studded with pecans and topped with streusel. I don’t berate myself for my choice. I do not want yogurt or berries or a protein shake. I make myself a cup of tea, and sit back down in front of my computer. The banana bread is sweet and tastes of nutmeg. I notice this because I am eating it slowly, savoring instead of inhaling. My hunger ebbs and I begin to write, sipping my hot tea, leaving a couple of bites of banana bread on the plate. Maybe I will eat them later. Maybe I won’t. I don’t feel the need to remove the plate from my sight. It sits there while I enjoy my tea, my writing, my quiet mind.
Later that afternoon, when I go to the grocery store, I mostly stick to the items on my list. I do not feel an unsettling pull toward the candy aisle. (We have candy at home, a bag of Twizzlers in our cupboard left over from last weekend’s movie outing.) I load my carriage with food to cook with. There are fresh fruits and gorgeous vegetables, but there is also beef, pasta and butter. I buy fresh crusty bread. I do not choose anything with the word diet or lean in it. Nothing is packaged in tiny 100-calorie bags and I buy two kinds of Ben & Jerry’s. I check out without tossing a pouch of M&M’s on the belt to eat in the car. While leaving, I spot someone I know and go out of my way to say hello. I do not avoid her thinking I look sloppy and fat, and she probably doesn’t like me anyway. We talk for ten minutes, catching up on our lives and kids. She compliments my longer hair and I don’t make a face. We promise to get together for lunch next week.
That evening I cook dinner for my family, trying a new recipe from a magazine that is not Weight Watchers. I dress our salad using olive oil, vinegar and fresh herbs. I sprinkle olives on top along with a few homemade croutons if the mood strikes. We eat and talk, sharing the day. We laugh. I enjoy a glass of red wine instead of water. I do not write down my calorie intake. When my husband or daughter asks for seconds, I give them more. I do not ask them if they’re really still hungry or if maybe they should finish their vegetables first. I take it as a compliment and pass the bread.
After the kitchen is cleaned up, I take the dog for a walk. I see neighbors putting out the trash and kids on bikes. I acknowledge everyone and they smile my way. I do not look down at the ground when a runner speeds by. I keep my chin up, make eye contact and nod. He waves, his music blaring from his ear buds. It is a rare spring evening and I am part of it.
The hours between dinner and bed are spent sitting with my husband watching a ball game or a favorite sitcom. We might read, he might do a crossword. My daughter in the next room slogs through her homework, asking the occasional question we are both available to answer. I am not hiding in the bedroom, afraid I might begin to eat uncontrollably. I am participating in my family, contributing what I can. I do not call myself names because I don’t know anything about pre-calculus. There is a dog on the couch next to me. He doesn’t care about math.
I eat a bowl of real ice cream and feel satisfied and nurtured. Maybe I slice an apple and eat it with a little peanut butter. I do not make an evil concoction of frozen strawberries, ice and fat-free Cool Whip and try to disguise it as food. It is cold and it is matter, but it is not food.
When I undress for bed I do not lock myself in the bathroom to change. I slip off my clothes in front of my husband, hopping around on one foot trying to get my leg into my sweatpants. I do not wonder if he finds my body repulsive or if he notices my unshaven legs. I climb into bed and meet him halfway. I fall asleep wrapped in his arms, allowing my loving husband to love me, as is.
By Guest Blogger, Betsy Palmer.