I've been watching us, those of us who are in our fifties. For the past several months, every time we've been in a social situation with our peers, I've observed the fifty-somethings. We're a pretty great bunch of people: experienced, interesting, a bit older and wiser, but still capable of surprises, still dreaming--even if they're retirement dreams these days.
But let's face it: very few of us have made it to this age without collecting some pounds around the middle. And it's true of men and women. I started this observation experiment at the beginning of the summer mostly watching women, but I quickly realized that men are experiencing the same thing. Maybe it's distributed a bit differently, but with the odd exception (like my spouse), none of us can wear the same pants we wore twenty years ago.
Years ago, an older friend told me that if you see a woman over 50 who is as thin as a 22-year-old, she's either had surgery or she's starving herself. I happen to know a couple of women who are the exception to that statement, but she had a point.
It's just not natural for people our age to be skinny. Why are we so hard on ourselves about this? Why do we beat ourselves up so much because something is happening to us that happens to almost everyone our age?
You can fight it, and we probably should at least a little, because being a little heavier around the middle can quickly turn into fifty extra pounds. But this obsession with getting back to the same size we were twenty years ago--it's crazy. You might be able to do it, but I for one am not interested in spending the rest of my life on 1,200 calories a day, which is what I'd have to do to stay there now that my metabolism has slowed.
(I actually checked into getting a tummy tuck a few years ago when I had been diligently doing ab work for months and there was no visible change in my abdominal profile. Do you know how much a tummy tuck costs??! I'd rather travel, and you could have one heck of a nice vacation for that amount of cash. Also, even though I checked into it, I don't think I could bring myself to do it, because a. it hurts and b. it's not without major risks.)
We went into our local fitness center about a year ago to have a health assessment done as part of my spouse's employee wellness program. If you pass, you get a significant reduction in your premium. We're pretty much a shoe-in because we don't smoke, only consume 1-2 alcoholic beverages a week, exercise moderately (me) or extensively (Doug). Statistically speaking, we're pretty healthy. We passed easily.
So I'm trying not to obsess (and for the record, I'm not always successful). I'm not going to gorge and sit in front of the TV all the time, but I'm trying to stop comparing myself to my 35-year-old self. It's not easy, because every time I see a picture of myself, I cringe. But we're here. We can't go back. We might as well embrace the new normal.