The exam had gone extremely well. Dr. Grewal scribbled notes, nodded frequently, and made satisfied “uh-huh” noises, indicating that I was in perfect health and would live to 107. But I began to sense that something was not quite right as she sat at her little desk, spinning the dials on a cardboard wheel. Finally she looked up and delivered the bad news, “You could lose some weight.”
She said it nicely and in an encouraging manner. But what I heard was, “Cathy. You’re fat.”
It’s not that she was telling me something I didn’t know. Since the birth of my third child, I’d taken stabs at losing weight, dieting with Weight Watchers, Scarsdale and Atkins. I’d lose a few pounds, buy a smaller pair of jeans, and then in a month or two, I’d send them off to Goodwill.
This time I decided to try the other half of the weight loss equation – exercise. I vowed to get serious and get physical.
First, I returned to a sport I had loved and was pretty good at…tennis. I bought some beautiful clothes, hoped they’d fit better soon, and joined a local team. When our captain asked what I’d like to play, I answered without hesitation, “Singles, of course.” Old ladies play doubles.
In the years since I’d picked up a racquet, the competition had gotten blonder and younger. I assumed the receiving position on my side of the court and watched helplessly as balls whizzed by. I managed to return a few from time to time, but at the end of our love-6 set, my opponent gently asked if I was alright. What her eyes were saying was, “Should I call an ambulance?”
Next stop on the fitness express – yoga. Goodwill got my tennis clothes and I bought some great new outfits, imagining my future Jennifer Aniston-like yoga butt. I found a convenient class and headed off with my mat tucked firmly under my arm. We started by sleeping, I mean relaxing, on the floor and I thought to myself that this was a lovely form of exercise.
Then there was some twisting, turning, and bending on the floor that went pretty well. Next, we stood up. And no matter how hard I concentrated and tried to empty my mind, my tree would topple and I couldn’t manage to salute the sun. I grabbed the wall or tumbled over, breaking the zen-like atmosphere in the room.
Heading home was difficult, especially since I was trying to balance an ice cream cone while steering. Was this it? Was I doomed to end my days wearing unflattering elastic pants?
Then I discovered the American Heart Association’s walking site. They recommended getting 10,000 steps a day. I thought that sounded reasonable since walking is something I do every day, right? I bought a simple Fitbit pedometer and wore it for a few days to get a sense of my activity level. I was active. About as active as a clam. I started parking in a lot away from my office. My steps increased. I added a lap or two around the neighborhood in the evening. Again, more steps. And on the weekends, I made it a point to head to Rockland Lake to tread the entire 3-mile path. Soon I was averaging 10,000 steps a day; my clothes got bigger, my legs grew stronger and my appetite diminished.
By my next physical I’d dropped 22 pounds. It turns out I didn’t need a special diet or fancy clothes to get in shape, just a good pair of sneakers, a snappy playlist and a soul that lives to ramble. I guess Olivia Newton-John was right all along.