I made no resolutions this year. Why? Because I’ve never kept a single one past the first few weeks of the year. Had I made a resolution, it would have been the same one that most Americans make—to exercise more, lose weight, and eat a more healthy diet.
The morning news today reported that people who are slightly overweight actually have a lower mortality rate than people whose weight is in the normal range. Though the authors of the study have no data to suggest why this is the case, they speculate that it’s because people who are overweight but not obese probably see a doctor more often than people who are healthier.
Are you shaking your head yet that money has been spent on a study of the obvious? Like a lot of us who struggle to keep our weight under control, I try very hard to keep myself out of the obesity range. My mother, who weighed 98 pounds when she married my father, gave up trying to control her weight in favor of warning my siblings and me to work on losing weight while it was five pounds rather than 50. She once looked at me and said, “If you ever do gain weight, your legs are going to look just like mine—like chicken drumsticks.”
With that warning in mind, I tried to balance work, parenthood, home-making, and time for myself, just as all of us do—whether we work inside or outside the home. When I couldn’t manage all of them, guess which one got short shrift? I love to cook, though I sometimes found myself turning to prepared foods after a challenging day at work. But given the number of hours in a day, I often found during those years that getting exercise was the one thing I couldn’t get into my schedule.
Two things coincided to change that dynamic. In the same year that I became an empty-nester, I received a diagnosis of cancer that forced me to see a doctor more frequently—every two weeks at first and now, nine years later, at least every six months, sometimes more often. At one point during chemotherapy, I lost so much weight that I was wearing my daughter’s size 4 jeans. Concerned about the weight loss, my doctor encouraged me to eat whatever I could eat until I finished chemotherapy.
And so I did. And bread was the one thing I could eat consistently. And as the nausea ended, I continued to eat bread…and chocolate…and…now…I’m back in that overweight range again. Back in the fall, I decided to eliminate bread and chocolate and to limit wine to weekends. I lost ten pounds. But then the holidays approached, offering me lots of opportunities to make excuses to break my new routine.
But when the waistline of my skirt begins to fit more snugly, I start to hear my mother’s voice again, so in the nine years since cancer, my weight and dress size have remained more or less the same. I have changed my diet—fewer red meats, less fat, more green vegetables. I generally walk a couple of miles each morning at 5:30—even in the dark of winter—because even though I’m not a morning person, I’ve found that is the one time of day over which I have control.
I’ve also learned that I love the crisp air and the stars and the quiet, the silence broken only by the sound of my footsteps and the jingling of the dog’s tags against his leash. And if there are a few days of rain or snow, I miss the walking that has now become habit.
So now that the holidays are over, I’ll try to get back to turning down that wine and bread and chocolate a little more often so that it becomes habit. I’ll take it one day at a time, as I did in September and October.
I’ll laugh ruefully when my British friend posts an altered picture of Michelangelo’s David with a paunch and the caption, “David after being on tour in the United States.” And I’ll try to keep myself from moving from being overweight to obese.
Is that a resolution? Maybe. But I refuse to call it a New Year’s resolution just because my resolve gets a little stronger again after the holidays. Let’s just call it a plan—one that involves a walk on the beach within the hour. That I can do.
What about you? What plans do you have for an optimistic new year?