I’ll be the first to admit that I gained a little weight over the holidays and I’ve found it not so easy to take back off this time. Longtime readers of my blog know that I began this blog because I used to carry 190 pounds around on my five foot, three inch frame, not so healthy for a 54-year-old. Then I had extensive dental work done in 2010 and was so sore that I could not eat solid food (Full Mouth Reconstruction). I began to lose weight. I thought to myself that there would be no better time to go on a diet than when I couldn’t chew, so I did some research and found a sensible eating plan I could stick with.
I’d always been a healthy eater; no junk food, no fast food, no sodas, ever. So I started counting calories for the first time in my life and calibrated all my favorite recipes so I would know what I was taking in. I measured out modest portions and cut way back on starch and sugar. At the same time, I started attending a yoga class at my gym to mitigate the dental pain and watched with longing the Body Pump class that came before yoga. Eventually I got up enough nerve to try the weightlifting class and found I loved it. As the pounds began to melt away, I added Body Flow, and then Body Step, and then Zumba and a second Body Pump class per week, all in the evenings after work. By June of 2011 (eight months later) I’d lost 70 ell-bees. I rejoiced in my new 120-pound figure, which was actually my old figure, unearthed from its decade-long burial under so much flab.
It was then, in the summer of 2011, that I realized my clothes were miles too big for me. I had no money to buy a new wardrobe, and was thinking that I would have to start canvassing thrift stores for something to wear. Out of the blue I remembered there were boxes in my basement that I had carried with me from state to state as I moved slowly across the country over a thirty-year span. Heaven only knows what possessed me to save my favorite garments from the 1970s and 1980s: wide belts, bellbottom jeans, halter tops, even exercise gear, but save them I did. I hauled the cardboard boxes up out of my basement and washed everything, mending a few things as I went, and took stock. Amazingly, I had a complete wardrobe in those containers. Everything fit me perfectly and, for the most part, was in pristine condition. I started wearing the pieces, and that’s when my girlfriends urged me to start a vintage fashion blog featuring my new svelteness and these fabulous retro garments. I launched Lynell's Vintage Look in November 2011.
The weight loss profoundly changed my life. Suddenly I no longer felt like a "middle-aged fat broad". I had muscle and brawn. I felt powerful. My stomach was flat and my abs were taut. I filmed a television commercial for my dentist (once my mouth was finally healed) which still plays on local Baltimore stations. I was touted as a role model at my health club, doing a number of print ads for them, a video commercial (Super Guarantee) and even a billboard. I was featured in a trade magazine article for the fitness industry (Club Solutions). It was heady stuff, and I exulted in the revival of my long-dormant self-esteem.
So you can imagine that I have been feeling no small amount of consternation about having gained ten pounds back this year. I’m going to be 57 in September, and while I still feel strong and powerful and fit, those ten pounds leer at me when I look in the mirror. I’ve started wearing baggy sweaters and tops that aren’t so form-fitting. I’d stopped wearing leggings altogether. Until today.
I don’t know what possessed me to pull on a pair of HUE jeggings from Macy’s this morning as I dressed for my commute to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Maybe I just wanted to see if I could get them on over my hips. I drew a vintage "electric blue" tunic by Units over my head and tugged on a pair of boots by Pleaser that I’ve owned since the 1970s. Hmmm. I didn’t look quite as bad as I had thought I would. I added a mixed metal necklace on a black cord that I bought in Ireland last summer, which happened to match some mixed metal earrings I’d owned for decades. I checked the mirror again. Maybe I could still wear leggings. Maybe I didn’t really look as heavy as I felt.
I was uncertain about my choice of attire as I went about my day. Denial is a powerful thing, and I wondered if I might not be seeing an accurate portrayal of myself in the in the looking glass, so strong was the desire not to believe that I was losing the ground I had worked so hard to gain. Maybe I actually looked ridiculous. Such doubt lingered with me, clouding my thoughts and interfering with my joie-de-vivre.
Then, I stopped at the supermarket on the way home from work. I hadn’t been in the produce section five minutes before a gentleman walked up to me and said, "I just have to say to you, has anyone told you, today, what a beautiful woman you are?" My jaw dropped clear to the floor. I grinned from ear to ear. "Why no!" I faltered in reply. "What a nice thing to say". I told him his kind words had made my day and turned to continue my shopping. About thirty minutes later, in a different part of the store, another man approached me. He said, cautiously, "I don’t ever do this, but I just have to tell you that… you are one fine looking woman". At this point I half expected Alan Funt from Candid Camera to jump out from behind the canned peas. I felt the heat rising in my face as I smiled again and thanked the man. He walked away and I stared at the garbanzo beans, struggling to remember what I had wanted from that aisle. My shoulders broadened. My chin lifted. Maybe I didn’t look so bad after all. Self esteem is a powerful tool in the battle against letting vigilance slide. Mine got a serious boost today.