Do I dare eat a peach?
Please, Prufrock. More like, “Do I dare I eat a muffin?”
For a few weeks ago, while visiting my primary care physician’s office to follow-up on my sleep apnea diagnosis, I was told – by one of the newest additions to the always-churning medical resident carousel at U-M – that my established need for my beloved, miracle-working BiPAP machine at age 46 was troubling.
Not for me, of course. That little machine may well have saved my life, and I’m a happier, better-rested person because of it. I’d totally make out with my BiPAP, if that was a thing.
But it’s troubling to them. The medical establishment. Even though I run 3-4 miles just as many times a week, and take a weekly 90 minute yoga class, plus at least one weightlifting workout, and seem/feel totally healthy, requiring no medications in my daily life.
“Exercise doesn’t have that much affect on weight,” said my resident du jour, annoyingly dismissing my protests. “It’s really more about diet. I’d like you to make an appointment with a nutritionist here.”
Wait – what? Isn’t there a multi-billion dollar industry built on the idea that workouts equal weight loss? Why the hell am I subscribing to Beachbody on Demand, ugly-sweating with Shaun T in my living room once or twice a week? And why in God’s name are doctors keeping this a secret from us all?!
I DECLARE SHENANIGANS!!!
The resident explained that exercise was good for your heart (among other benefits), but that he was more worried about me possibly developing diabetes down the road, because my current BMI has me flirting with the “clinically obese” category.
I mean, I know I’ve put on a little bit of weight in recent years. My metabolism slowed down – as it does for the vast majority of people – after I turned 40; and guess what? Being suddenly laid off from a job you loved and worked your ass off for, for more than a decade, and that you hoped to spend your life in – well, turns out that that kind of bums you out.
Did I turn to food for some comfort? I hadn’t thought I had in any significant way. But scales (which I don’t keep in the house, because why?) seem to indicate otherwise to my doctor.
But the whole BMI thing? Using this ill-conceived medical shortcut as a primary basis for concern made me side-eye the doc.
I mean, I get it. My Google search does not equal your medical degree. Resolved. But when muscular professional athletes have BMIs that would indicate “clinical obesity,” and when, according to Medical News Today, researchers at Penn’s School of Medicine find that the “inaccurate measure” fails to take into account “muscle mass, bone density, overall body composition, and race and sex differences,” well, seems to me that the tool’s effectiveness is dubious at best. (Plus, NPR called Shenanigans on this way back in 2009, and NPR is, as we all know, da journalistic bomb.)
Add to this confusion the maddening, constant push-pull with the physical changes that come with middle age, particularly for women. Our friends – and Dove commercials – encourage us to embrace the aging process gracefully, to love ourselves, and to love our bodies, perceived “imperfections” and all; we’re snarkily told by peers that to achieve a bikini body, we simply need to don a bikini; and we can outright revel in not caring how men see us anymore, because they don’t see us now, anyway. There’s relief and a sense of liberation that comes with invisibility.
But then, when your kid passes the stomach flu onto you, and you puke for a couple of days, you can’t help but notice the sudden stream of compliments about “how great you look” that keep coming your way immediately after. (Seems kind of messed up, doesn’t it?)
Plus, when you’re unemployed, and you understand all too well how the world works, you know that both youth and beauty will always cut in front of you.
I resent this, and I resent the way the medical establishment seems to be gaslighting me. It’s like body dysmorphia, but instead of me not being able to objectively see my body as it actually looks, my doctor can’t. I know I’m not obese, and I’m in decent shape, and I’m healthy. I don’t need to be skinny. I want to experience joy in all its forms – ESPECIALLY at this time in my life, when joy is harder to come by – and that sometimes includes treats with my family.
I don’t want to be someone who’s constantly obsessing over calorie intake. I’ve never wanted to be that person. So I don’t really want to make the appointment with the nutritionist.
But I make the appointment.
AND YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. (Which is simply a cheeky way for me to say, “to be continued.”)