|Happy Birthday, Golden Gate!|
In the five years since I wrote this story below, I did lose more weight...and met that goal and more. But now I need to reverse the trend of the last couple of months, so I look once more to the Golden Gate for golden inspiration.
Good Enough for the Golden Gate“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” --Isaac Newton
A couple of years ago, after my husband died, I gave up on monitoring my weight. I packed on ten pounds in just a few months, simply lacking any motivation whatsoever to to remain reasonably fit. I’d struggled with weight issues since puberty, but now I no longer cared.
I comforted myself with casseroles and stews, preparing plenty so I could enjoy seconds and thirds. I encouraged this behavior with a litany of self-approving affirmations. Nothing shameful about growing pleasingly plump at this stage of my life, I’d tell myself, nor anything wrong with surrendering gracefully to old age. I couldn’t see any incentives for trying to fend off the inevitable.
Without Ken around to smile approvingly when we got dressed to go out to dinner or a movie, I no longer could dredge up any reason to shed pounds, nor see any benefits to trying to keep fit. I made do with loose fitting jeans and baggy sweatshirts. Good enough for tired old me, I thought.
Then one day about eighteen months ago I realized I no longer had anything in my closet that fit. Even the stretchy-waist jeans wheezed as I slid them up over my ever-spreading hips. I had to reevaluate. Did I really want to order a batch of new baggy jeans in an even larger size? Did I really want to grow so large I’d no longer have the energy to weed the garden, take the dogs for a walk, and navigate a big box store without a motorized cart?
I started thinking about what had happened to so many I’d known when they reached their seventies. Both of my two husbands plus a long-time boyfriend had died before their 75th birthdays, all of illnesses somewhat related to poor health habits. Other friends had undergone hip and knee replacements, often related to excess weight, and a few even had become wheelchair-bound or bedridden.
Did I want this for myself? Sure, I didn’t have a husband or a boyfriend…but I had plenty of activities that I looked forward to, including trips abroad. Could I trot over cobblestones at the University of Cambridge if I had to tote a cane? Could I trip down the 138 Spanish Steps in Rome, balancing my bulky body with a walker?
I tugged up the last pair of jeans that fit and sauntered to the mailbox. That day’s junk mail included two more advertising brochures for motorized scooters. I scornfully tossed them in the trash, and grabbed a leash to take my dog, Natty, for a walk.
It isn’t all about appearance, I realized, relishing the afternoon air ruffling my hair. It’s about mobility, about keeping joints and muscles in shape. About being able to enjoy the things I’d always taken for granted. Like an afternoon stroll. So I embarked on a fitness campaign and lost those ten pounds and five extra as well.
For the past year I’ve maintained the fifteen pound loss, but haven’t attempted to shed more, even knowing a ten more pounds off would result in a “normal” rather than an “overweight” Body Mass Index score. I hadn’t found new inspiration until just the other day… in the unexpected form of a bridge.
I fell in love with the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge as a girl of nine or ten. Its graceful lines and cheery International Orange color have never failed to brighten my spirits every time I’ve visited San Francisco, even on the soggiest and foggiest of mornings.
Now I’ve learned that the structure celebrates its 75th birthday in May, 2012. In preparation for this milestone, organizers in San Francisco already have begun to revitalize and spiffy up the old girl. Programs, activities and events already have been launched. She’ll be getting a new coat of paint as part of the celebration.
My own 75th birthday takes place the following month. Sadly, nobody yet has offered to help rejuvenate me. But if it’s good enough for the Golden Gate, it should be good enough for me. So I guess I’ll have to develop a plan on my own…because seventy-five’s a big round number, and I don’t want to blow out the candles on my birthday cake looking like a big round number myself.
I’ve decided to further increase my daily activity and cut back on some additional calories. With that “normal” Body Mass Index as my personal goal, I’ve tailored an old nursery rhyme to my program so that when my 75th rolls around I shall be able to don a garment of International Orange myself, and not look like a Halloween pumpkin.
One, two, buckle my shoe.
I can’t remember a time ever when I couldn’t touch my toes, feet flat on the ground, knees unbent. I’ve now recognized that I don’t want to lose that ability ever. So to stay flexible I now begin each morning with some waist-whittling toe touches. As soon as I put the dogs and cats outside, I put some soft music on, envision myself in a new birthday outfit, and get in a peaceful mood. I alternate right hand to left foot and left hand to right foot, a dozen times each. This gets the blood flowing to my brain and helps me wake up.
Three, four, knock on the door.
It’s my Natty and Nami, signaling that they want back inside. So I let them in and leash them up. Nami, the Akita, only gets a ten-minute stroll up and down in front of my country property. But Natty gets the real deal, a twenty-minute hike around the hairpin loop I live on.
Five, six, pick up sticks.
With nearly a hundred trees on my three and a half acres, here in windy northeast Washington, that’s a lot of twigs and branches blown to the ground daily. A brisk ten-minute walk around my property daily, shoving my wheelbarrow, gathering the windfalls, allows for more bending and stretching as I tidy up the lawns.
Seven, eight, lay them straight.
Clearing the lawns isn’t enough. It’s also time to clean out the closets, cupboards and drawers, an activity that gives me plenty of opportunity to bend and stretch. If I can get them all cleared by the onset of winter, I’ll have made great progress on getting the house in shape, as well as myself.
Nine, ten, a big fat hen.
Here’s my dietary secret. I’ve been substituting chicken for beef for about eighty percent of my meals. It’s leaner, and costs less. Plus I’ve found over a dozen varieties of low calories single serving frozen entrees…and this staves off temptation to reach for extra portions.
Since I’ve resolved to join the Golden Gate in celebrating our mutual and exhilarating three quarters of a century, I’ve whittled off another pound. Just nine now to go! On that upcoming 75th birthday, I’ll toss a kiss heavenward towards Ken and hope his spirit approves of the luminous high visibility International Orange top that I’m planning to wear. Deep inside this old hen still beats the heart of a happy young chick.
*****The Golden Gate has been featured in many films. Here's some favorites: