Recently after teaching a Saturday morning exercise class, I asked a friend if she’d like to go for coffee and catch up. She readily agreed and we made our way to the neighborhood coffee shop, ordered our iced teas and grabbed a table outside beneath a shady pergola. To keep things honest, I will fess up to having also ordered my favorite vegan cranberry muffin – a detail relevant to know as this blog unwinds.
My friend and I are both group fitness instructors. She specializes in water aerobics and is also a massage therapist with vast knowledge in health and wellness, both physical and spiritual. I focus on interval classes, yoga and BalleYo. Our conversation flowed freely between her recent travels, exercise classes, relationships, health concerns, etc.. Inevitably, we landed on the subject of aging and how frustrating it is to deal with body changes, aches and pains, and yes, the dreaded middle age weight gain.
Disclaimer. Although the core theme of my blog is accepting the changes we face with age and in fact, thriving in the middle years, I am nonetheless human and not immune to the frustrations that go along with getting older. In other words; Some days, aging just sucks! There I said it. And while I feel like a fraud, I also feel better getting that out there and admitting that it’s not always easy to be positive about aging – and that’s okay.
Back to the coffee (or iced tea) discussion.. My friend is about 8 years older than me and in fact just celebrated her 61st birthday. She was mentioning what a great birthday it was because so many of her family and friends made the day special with well wishes, get togethers and considerate actions. “And it wasn’t even a special birthday,” she commented, “but it was much more enjoyable than my 60th last year..” “Why do you think that is?” I asked. She answered that she thought she was just in a better place with relationships and had resolved some “toxic” issues in her life. I commented that I too, had recently resolved a long standing feud of sorts with a close relative and I felt that a huge internal knot was released and mentioned how other areas in my life had improved as a result. A good and deep conversation ensued.
We discussed this a bit longer and then circled back to the topic of middle age female weight gain once again. “This belly fat,” she said “it’s all from carbs.. I replied, “I ate more carbs fifteen years ago and had a much smaller waist..” She agreed.. “It’s age..” I said. “I exercise as much or more and eat less than I did in my 30s and 40s but weigh more than ever.” This seems to be a global complaint of many women past a certain age.
I hate that this bothers me, but I’ve also noticed that these types conversations about aging side-effects usually last only a few minutes and then revert back to something more meaningful and interesting. In other words, most of the time we are rolling with the changes and, pardon the pun, accepting these “rolls.”
I thought I was past the days of insecurity about appearance and weight. But then it occurred to me that as women, we never are completely and consistently over all of that. Just when we claim to accept the mysterious back fat and armpit rolls and the chin hairs that appear overnight and stubbornly regrow after each tweezing, just as we joke and commiserate about the uphill battle of keeping the gray at bay with shorter and shorter time lapses between salon appointments, just as we think we are beyond any and all acne (really, after 50?), we hate that we weigh more at our recent physical than we did last year (and that’s with carefully selected lightweight clothing and removal of shoes). We look in the mirror and see noticeable gray roots and something that looks like a cyst on our chin. Some days it’s a challenge to find a pair of pants in the closet that don’t bind or to wake up without puffy eyes and achy joints. Some days we long for our youth.
But why? After all, as a self proclaimed proponent of aging gracefully, focusing on the moment, not dwelling on appearances as long as a healthy lifestyle is adhered to, I’m supposed to be above all of that. I’m supposed to accept aging gracefully.
Maybe this realization that we cannot do anything to stop the march of time and its effect on our bodies is our wake up call to appreciate the more important qualities in each other. Wisdom, humor, empathy, compassion. Knowing that we are all in this together, that none of us are immune to aging and that all of us are imperfect and vulnerable may be an actual benefit of aging. To prepare us to become better human beings. To find a purpose beyond eternal youth and external perfection.
So go ahead and have that muffin, you earned it! But let’s also keep up the exercise and healthy diet and all the good things too, because life is for living and we owe it to ourselves to live our best lives. And while we will never have the body of a 25 year old at age 50, we will have the wisdom and friendships that only decades of living can bring. And that’s well worth a few pounds and a wrinkle or two. And there it is, maybe the “rolls” do have a purpose.
So keep on striving and thriving and live your life with purpose! Because we do get better with age. At least on the inside.