I've gained it. Lost it. Gained it back again.
I'm thinking there is another person, somewhere, out there in the cosmos, who is saying the same thing. I think when s/he gains, I lose and vise versa.
I've been dieting for about two weeks now. I know what to do: high protein, low fat, low carbs, a good amount of fiber. Vitamin supplements. At least 30 minutes of exercise a day. I've been riding my bike and jogging on my trampoline and using my Wii-Fit to hula hoop and jog and box and having some fun trying to dance my derriere off (literally) with the Wii "Just Dance".
Two weeks. Five pounds. That's it.
I know. I know. Slow and steady wins the race. It's a healthy way to lose. If you look up the word: "impatient", you'll find my picture right next to it. It took me two years to gain back the weight (two years away from the gym 4-5 days per week) and now I want to lose it in two weeks (with no gym within 10 miles from home). Impatience brings with it its own set of unrealistic expectations.
Into the midst of my latest dieting phase comes the recent picture of Lady Gaga. Twenty-five pounds heavier and completely unashamed. Blames it on the fact that she's been eating - apparently with some frequency - at her dad's new Italian restaurant in Manhattan.
Look, I know I'm no Gaga. I lost my "bikini bod" a long, long time ago. My thighs dropped in my 40s, but "the girls" are still holding their own. I've grieved and moved on. I know how I look naked and I'm okay with that. Having kids does that to you and I wouldn't trade one of them to lose one pucker of cellulite. I've come to believe that cellulite is the mark of a real, non-airbrushed woman who has had her share of a few miles of laughter and struggle in her life.
Cellulite is like laugh lines for your body. Don't like it? Don't look. Oh, and grow up.
I just want to feel good in my clothes again - without feeling like I have to wear a full body Spanx. I mean, I just don't buy clothes. I invest in them - at discount prices, of course.
Someone suggested to me the other day that if I want to be successful in keeping the weight off, I needed to "change my relationship with food". She said this with a straight face. I couldn't help it. I laughed out loud. Right over my Grilled Caesar Chicken Salad hold-the-dressing, please and yes, another glass of unsweetened ice tea.
|Portuguese egg tarts|
I was telling a friend just this morning that, when mia Voa - my beloved grandmother - lost her appetite, she lost her will to live. Granted, she was in her mid-80s and pretty much confined to bed, but the meds she took to keep her heart pumping - as well as the attendant 'low sodium, heart healthy diet' - also robbed her of her appetite.
I went to see her, one afternoon, a few weeks before she died. She was so depressed, I began to be alarmed. I decided that a little visual walk down memory lane might help, so I pulled out an old photo album and we began our stroll.
We came across a picture taken when she must have been in her late 60s. Her beautiful, formerly blue-black hair was gray and pulled back in her signature, braided bun. Her body was round and full. Her stance was strong, her just-a-little-too-muscular-for-a-woman arm around mine, as I stood next to her, tall and skinny (but I remembered being at least 20 pounds heavier) in my high school graduation cap and gown. She was smiling and relaxed and happy.
She looked at herself, lifting up an arm with skin and muscle clinging to the bone for dear life while the flab that told stories of happier, long-ago days hung from her night dress, and then looked back at the picture. She smiled broadly as I watched the depression lift from her face and body.
She said, in Portuguese, "Ah, we ate well then, didn't we?"
We laughed and began talking about some of the things we used to make together. I got her to tell me a few of the recipes as I wrote them down on the back of a few envelopes of the get well cards or bills she had received. I still have them, to this day, just the way she told them to me.
|Fried baby smelts|
She used to cook up these baby smelts in the big caste iron pan - which I now have (it's my most prized possession) - in EVOO and butter with TONS of garlic and a dusting of semolina flour.
They were a magical combination of cripsy and crunchy, yet they'd melt right in your mouth. We'd eat them right out of the pan - heads and all - picking them up with Portuguese bread (crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, just the way it's supposed to be) slathered with butter. They are so addictive, they're like crack cocaine. You just can't stop eating them, and, after you've finished, you begin to dream of a way to get them again.
I said, in my best Portuguese, "I'll go to the market and make some for you now, if you want." To my surprise and delight, she agreed. When I returned, she insisted on getting up out of bed and sat at the kitchen table, watching my every move at her kitchen stove and guiding me through the process.
It was the best - and last - lunch we shared. We laughed as the butter from the hot bread melted and ran down our arms. I remember her licking the melted butter from her wrists and then, I did the same. We laughed and laughed and laughed.
She died shortly after that, never returning to her kitchen to cook or guide anyone through one of her recipes. I understand that better now.
We even had a small glass of vinho verde to wash it all down. I reminded her, before I went to fetch the bottle, that her doctor would not be pleased.
I'm sorta glad I can't spell the words in Portuguese which she said in response. Let's just say that it wasn't flattering either to the doctor or his family lineage - or, for that matter, the size of his male, external genitalia.
|Spicy pork and clams.|
Meanwhile, I work on balance - diet and exercise, calories in, calories out - while I dream of an occasional treat my favorite foods as I bounce on the trampoline or ride my bike.
I know that 'yo-yo' dieting is probably worse than any deep fried food or cream-laced dessert I could put in my mouth, but I'm convinced that the culprit this time is the lack of exercise.
My diet really hasn't been that bad. Two years out of the gym is a long time. It's all about the balance. My biggest work is not the effort it takes to keep food away from my mouth. It's all about regaining and maintaining the balance in my life.
Yes, I'm gaga about food, but I'm also deeply committed to having at least 20 more years of eating well and forming an even deeper, healthier relationship with and memories of food, which I hope I'll be able to share with my children and grandchildren. I hope to give them the gift of similar memories as my grandmother gave me.
I don't think it's an accident that Jesus instituted a meal as a way to remember him. Or, that some of the criticism about him which came from his adversaries centered around what he ate and how he ate and with whom he ate.
Neither is it a coincidence that we break bread and share wine as part of the central act of being a community of faith, which we say is a "foretaste of the heavenly banquet".
I just know, deep in my soul, that when I arrive at heaven's gate, there will be a large pan of fried baby smelt waiting for me. And, mia Voa will be waiting there, smiling and laughing, one strong arm holding the caste iron pan, the other holding a golden brown round loaf of crusty Portuguese bread.
Food nourishes your body, but food linked with stories and memories can feed your soul.
When both are well and in balance, there's a beauty there that surpasses all individual assumptions and expectations, as well as cultural definitions and limitations.
I suspect Lady Gaga - like a few of the rest of us - has already figured that out for herself.