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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Valentine

The Shifting Sandbags of Time

"Exercise should be regarded as a tribute to the heart." Gene Tunney

It will soon be time for me to update my driver's license. It is the humbling, but not too painful experience we go through every couple of years. During the renewal, you get a new picture (no smile this time) and update your height and weight.

Ten years ago when I renewed my license I was at a pivotal point in my weight management. I was 10 pounds over what I thought was a respectable weight. Surely I will be able to get the weight off sometime during these 10 years before I have to renew this license and I did reach it as is evidenced in these images. I think if the DMV really wanted to know your weight, they would have one of those industrial scales so you wouldn't have to agonize over the number.

So should I do the honorable thing and give my today weight or my aspirational weight? There is a strategy (or rationalization): I may be 20 pounds overweight today, but I won't be for the next 10 years. Should I put my target weight or current weight?

When you are a woman of my experience, weight is important but not your major day to day concern. During an onsite work health fair, one of the stations was measuring your waist. I remember staying pretty close to the brick house numbers (36-24-36) back in the day. Imagine my horror when the nurse said 32! What! and then informed me that over 30 inches indicates a health concern.

Posting your weight on a legal document is a reflective experience. Before this point, I never understood why weight aged a person, but knew it to be true. As you get older the game changes. What comes next is unexpected if you are not warned. No one tells you that your body starts to follow a different agenda without your permission or even notifying you. But what I wasn't prepared for was the shift in agreement with my body.

These are the things I wish my mom told me about. There is a smugness that comes with youth. When you are in your 20s and you see middle aged woman struggling with their weight, you think they just let themselves go. News flash: no one wakes up one day and says, hey, I want to be overweight. It is a multi layer experience.

I have always tried to exercise - not to the point that I could complete a Ironman race, but a reasonable amount. Who knew that hormones played such an important role in your weight. The only discussions I had ever heard about hormones surrounded the adolescent period and the change of life looming in the middle age years. Estrogen and testosterone - specially assigned to manage your awakening and sunsetting of child bearing activity. I was a biology major for a while in school so I was probably not totally ignorant of other hormones, but those (at least in my mind) were the quiet components of this marvelously designed machine. I don't have to understand every body process. It is all working for my benefit if I feed and exercise properly. I would say through my 30s I had things under control. I gained the reasonable amount of weight to deliver three healthy babies and always returned to within 5 pounds of the pre baby weight.

Well if you do the math, that is 15 pounds right there.

Then several events collided in a perfect storm. My doctor noticed a slight bulge at the base of my neck. The endocrinologist said I had a early case of Hashimoto's disease. My body thinks my thyroid is an enemy force and needs to be eradicated. How or why it came to this conclusion is beyond me. My doctor asked me, "Do you feel tired?" Fatigue is a symptom of the Hash. While I paused to respond respectfully she quickly said "You have three children. You don't know what tired is." In other words, tired was my normal. So we took the steps to make sure I didn't develop a goiter.

One of the bonuses of "The Hash" is weight gain. Whhooopeee!

Then you brace for the change of life when your body downshifts on estrogen, making room for more testosterone. I must have 15 fans in this house, most of them given to me by women who were experiencing their 'personal summers' all year round. Chin hairs are my favorite part of this segment. I had two grow in on the left side of my chin - both white hairs. Not to mention you have the pay the piper called gravity. Things start shifting forward and then down. I remember the first day I noticed my eyes looked shut in a picture. My eyelids have started drooping. UGH! This is probably around the same time I started learning about other hormones, like cortisol which adds to the dreaded belly fat when you worry. Another bonus.

The last thing I will say about the hormone fight is that you can't get discouraged and the scale is not your friend. I have settled myself on being reasonable about what I eat and when I eat, even when the scale doesn't reward me. For a recent three week period my son and I got up at 5:30 am to hit the gym (30 minutes aerobics and 30 minutes weight training) at least 4 times a week. It was a sacrifice, but worth it. We both started our workday with a sense of confidence and accomplishment. I didn't weigh myself during those three weeks because I was waiting for the grand prize at the end, but did feel better in my clothes because the muscles were enjoying the workouts. Getting up that early makes you super conscience of your eating habits because you don't want to sabotage yourself. I get on the scale after three weeks and...up 10 lbs. UGH!

In conclusion, I am glad to be alive. I continue to stay ahead of my metabolism shifts because the pounds just creep up. At the end of the day, I want to be kind to my heart. Please share your stories about the shifting sandbags of time.


Finding your non-mommy self A Cord of Three Strands -

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