Twinkies over Turnips

Some people have an inner goddess, or an inner demon. I have an inner dumpling.  Over the years, my waistline has waxed and waned like the moon, expanding and contracting like the universe itself.  Okay, that sounds poetic, but the truth is much less fluffy.

As a kid, I was chunky. As a teenager, I was stick thin (poor body image+toothbrush down the throat). In college, I happily embraced the freshman feed. We had a blender in our dorm room–not for cocktails, I certainly didn’t get fat from getting with the par-tay.  No, no, we made milkshakes. Sometimes more than once in a day.

After marriage, kids, and long stretches as a fractured family (a deployed spouse means cereal for supper instead of lasagna), I have watched the span of my pants zoom from dainty to bovine and back again in a near perfect cycle for years.  Always before, I ping-ponged between the discipline that comes with an overwhelming need to look good, and the slackness associated with wanting to eat whatever I wanted because I was A) going through something very emotional and sugar makes it all better, or B) I associated food with friends, family, socializing, happiness.  Thus, laid bare, is my inner dumpling.

Turning 40 brings a whole new ball game. Suddenly there is no zooming up and down the sizes on the pant rack, it is more of a slow creep. And once you go up, you are pretty much up, unless you fall into the quick fix trap with appetite suppressors/fat burners/delivered boxed food/toothbrush handles.  That just isn’t me. I’m too lazy to stick with anything extreme for long. And then you factor in the health thing. Forty is the age where everyone sits up and realizes they are half way done with the show. Now it isn’t just about being thin, it is about being healthy and looking younger.

Enter the diet gurus, with their books full of science, their fat, sick, and nearly depressing documentaries, and their terrifying terminology (pink slime). We are literally eating ourselves, as a nation, into an early grave with factory food and GMOs and lard and sodium.  I got that message a long time ago, and not just because I’m in a middle-aged panic. In my family, we garden, we shop carefully, we eat very little processed food.  But we will be clutching prime rib and butter in tight, little fists until the bitter end. And we all have a tendency to equate healthy with all-you-can-eat.  Nope, even broccoli can make you fat if you eat too much.

On top of struggling with the extreme or the excess, now I am expected to be healthy, community minded, and hopefully control my weight in the process.  So do I eliminate carbs, stick with lean protein? Done that. Become a vegetarian? Done that, mostly. Count food points and weigh every morsel on a teeny scale? Please. Vegan? Now we’re getting complicated. Zone? Atkins? South Beach?  I don’t really think any of that is going to work for my inner dumpling. What she really needs is to shut her damn mouth. Literally.

I could never become a gym junkie, or a runner, but I exercise moderately. I need to step that up a notch.  I also need to step away from buying candy in bulk at the big box store, and cap the merlot a glass earlier. Do we really need a loaf of french bread at dinner? I think not. Do I need to accept the fact that my dumpling will never be able to face a life of deprivation of anything? Absolutely. Tofu is not steak, and eating a bowl of tagliatelle instead of a pork chop might add fifteen minutes to my life, but will add 15 inches to my waist.  It comes down to eating mostly veggies, keeping the carnivore and chocolate fiend in check. But they are there, just ask dumpling.

I am officially waving the white flag. I can’t do another stinking diet (did I mention Adonis bought a juicer?).  I don’t want to be chunky. I don’t want to have a heart attack. I don’t want to hate eating because it is boring, regimented, and based on a system of denial and reward. I want to achieve peace with my inner dumpling, which ultimately comes down to one thing: moderation.

It would have been less daunting if you had said “marathon” instead.


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