The Full Monty

In an attempt to cheer me up after a very minor upset, my husband suggested that we snuggle up and watch a movie. He had picked up several selections at the library and gave me the option of comedy or comedy.

I chose The Full Monty. I have never gotten around to seeing it, if you can believe that, though I did know what it was about. Doesn’t everyone now really? Know what a “full monty” is anyway. And it was a cute little flick, but what I found most interesting was the issue of self image and body issues because I am so in that place myself right now.

Interestingly, I had spent several long, sad moments surviving my own full monty self inspection before jumping in the shower with my husband. And just as an aside, I have discovered few better ways to reconnect at the end of the day with my best guy than sharing a hot, soapy shower. But what I had seen in the mirror earlier, made the weight struggles of the film’s character, Dave, hit home in a concrete way. I am getting thick middled and just like Dave, I hate it.

I have always had weight issues. I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t heavy or fighting against it. I am in fight mode again these days, and it appears that this is where I will be staying for the duration.

I know the drill. Watch what I eat. Eat fresh. Exercise. Accept the fact that I will never be a “twenty year old hard body again” as my husband put it. But I never was a hard body and that is what makes this so frustrating. Despite years of doing the “right” things, I find myself once again losing the battle simply because I am aging.

“You are going to have to accept that this is what happens to middle-aged women,” my ultra-Zen-like husband advises me.

How? What can I do to make the transition easier to endure and/or accept?

There is nothing left to eliminate from my diet. I have food sensitivities and outright allergies that make it impossible for me to eat nearly anything processed or preserved. I don’t snack. I listen to my body for hunger cues. It’s ironic that I have managed somehow to convey all these healthy eating traits and habits to my own daughter, but they just don’t work all that well for me.

It doesn’t help that I am coming off a period in my life where illness caused me to lose about 25 pounds and for the first time in my entire life – I was very thin. And I so loved it.

But my thinness was a product of virtually being unable to eat. I can remember just sitting and crying because I was so hungry and yet my stomach hurt so terribly I could barely chew food and force myself to swallow it. But man, I loved being able to effortlessly pull on a pair of size eight jeans. A size I believe I totally skipped on my way to the twelve I have more or less been my adult life.

12! But that’s not fat. Right?

Not by real world standards, where women like us live, but even O Magazine celebrates the clothing and designers pushed on us by society. Twelve is plus-sized.

Dave in The Full Monty asks his wife at one point who would want someone like him? Someone who is overweight? Thick-middled. She reminds him that she does. My husband reminded me of this too when he told me after my little upset,

“Remember that the person whose opinion of you matters most is right here in front of you.”

And he thinks I am hot.

But when I look in the mirror and see an already thickening middle, and remember that I am nowhere close to old-age yet, I can’t help but sigh deeply. I don’t want to be one of those apple-shaped old ladies like my 9th grade algebra teacher. Four foot nothing with a barrel for a body perched precariously atop two spindly legs. When I look in the mirror now, I see Sr. Wilfred – minus the unflattering nun’s habit.

Of course I need to completely calm down. Metabolism does slow as we age but there is ample evidence to suggest that exercise can counter much of this, and maintaining muscle mass can also off-set some of the weight issues. I work out 5 days a week, but yoga and walking alone cannot make up for the running I used to do. It is a thing of my past now as 25 years of pavement pounding has finally caught up with my flat feet.

Then too there is the fact that I am only just beginning to recover from the after-effects that my illness, coupled with the early grief of widowhood and my then ignorance of my food allergies, had wrought on my body. I am still discovering my yet to be self and in my more rational full monty assessments, I can see a shape emerging that is not quite the stuff of a B-movie horror flick. In fact it is probably more aesthetically pleasing than I would have had otherwise.

I think someday I might be able to “full monty” with the best of them, look at Helen Mirren after all, but I agree with my husband in that the only person who it truly matters to be completely comfortable with my God given attire is him and, of course, me.

This was an original 50 Something Moms piece.

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