Weekend Update: Resetting & Reading

Walking shoes: Susan B. likes these Cole Haan sneakers. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

How are you doing with your fitness routine these days?

I’ve never been especially motivated to work out on my own (aside from walking). I’d been taking private Pilates sessions for over a year and a half, and found that a good option for me. It kept me accountable and I’d noticed a big improvement in my strength and posture.

Above: ready for our daily walk. Sneakers | Joggers

But when the stay-at-home orders kicked in, the in-person session was no longer an option, so I tried keeping up with some online classes. I stuck with it for a while, but hit the wall in late May, and lost my motivation.

When my instructor does re-open her private studio, I’m going to have some serious catching up to do. Fingers crossed, she’ll be able to start seeing clients again next month.

Reading…

Book cover: This Is Big - How The Founder Of Weight Watchers Changed The World (And Me) by Marisa Meltzer

I happened to catch an episode of the Everything Is Fine podcast (with Tally Abecassis and Kim France). The guest was Marisa Meltzer, author of This Is Big: How The Founder Of Weight Watchers Changed The World (And Me).

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was drawn in pretty quickly. It was a thoughtful, nuanced discussion about both WW founder Jean Nidetch and the author’s own struggles with weight and body acceptance. As well as cultural attitudes toward size, food, “wellness,” and weight.

Weight has always been one of my “issues.” I’ve struggled with it most of my life, and have achieved if not peace, a kind of detante. So when Meltzer spoke of the feelings of shame that accompany weight gain, it really resonated with me. I’ve gained a little weight since March, and yes, it bothers me.

After the podcast, I ordered the ebook, and read it over a couple of afternoons. I’ve done a few stints in Weight Watchers over the years, so knew the basic story of Jean Nidetch: she gathered a group of women friends for support while losing weight, and that small group grew quickly to become a multi-million dollar business.

Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

From what little I’d read about Nidetch before, she always struck me as a bit preachy and judgmental. But Meltzer’s biography gave me a greater understanding that she was a product of her times, and an appreciation for what she was able to accomplish in spite of those times, when business options for women were still very limited.

Alternating with the chapters on Nidetch is Meltzer’s memoir of her own struggles with food and weight (while being a writer who often covers “wellness” and celebrities). But this isn’t one of those “I saw the light and everything changed,” narratives. It’s far more complex and nuanced, without a neatly-sewn-up conclusion.

I could really relate to some of the feelings she describes, especially being caught between dueling feelings of shame: shame about body size, and shame about actively attempting to reduce. (Fear of being a “bad feminist,” or not being the “cool girl” who can eat whatever she wants without gaining an ounce.)

It gave me a lot to think about, and I’m still processing. But it was a reminder that we’re often our own harshest judges, and that sometimes our struggles are what connect us.

Bon weekend!

Stay in touch.

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20 Comments

  1. Shari
    June 27, 2020 / 4:45 am

    I’ve been reading so much on white supremacy and this book sounds like a personal journey and some new direction…thanks I’ll request it at my super library….which has saved my life during this quarantine!

  2. June 27, 2020 / 6:11 am

    I have been a Pure Barre member for almost 5 years, and had used their online workouts before the studio closed. I’m proud to say I’ve continued online seasons 3x weekly, and will soon hit 500 classes! I think being accustomed to the online format helped, and my first in-studio workout yesterday was disappointing due to all the changes for COVID. I understand it’s necessary but will probably continue at home workouts for awhile. I think it’s helped me to have structure in my week and a very healthy distraction from a lot of unpleasant news.

  3. Angelica
    June 27, 2020 / 7:32 am

    I tried Jean Michel Cohen’s approach to losing wait. The difference with other wellness gurus is that the recipes on his website are delicious. I lost 14 kg in about one year, gained back 10, all my fault, and I am back now to his diet. His website is in French but some of his books are translated into English.

  4. Anon
    June 27, 2020 / 7:38 am

    I recall my mother being told by her doctor not to gain more than 10 pounds during pregnancy. Doctors even prescribed amphetamines to keep women’s weight down, yes, during pregnancy.

    Weight was another way of controlling women. It still is. Weight loss is an industry, a very profitable one.

  5. Kathe Lehman-Meyer
    June 27, 2020 / 8:07 am

    Thank you for this post. It’s exactly what I needed to read this morning to feel inspired and not defeated.

  6. Jan Whichard
    June 27, 2020 / 8:33 am

    Our personal trainer has been setting up our workouts 3 times a week at our home following our initial 3 week hermit phase back in early March. Now that it’s nice we set up outside. It has been a god send but I’m ready to get back to the gym even though I’m sure there will have been some rearranging.

    Here is my sneaker confession. I figure it is Saturday and maybe not as many people are looking at the comments….my virus rebellion was to finally purchase the Gucci Bee sneakers with the red and green back panels. The correct size arrived and they are glorious!

    Books…for some reasons, after reading so many books during this down time, I pulled out my handy Chaucer and re read some of the Canterbury Tales. It took me away from today, hurled me back to a time when writers played with words more than they seem to do now, and delighted me in a picture of the way parts of England looked way back when.

    Have a fun weekend everyone….this too shall pass!

    • Juti
      June 28, 2020 / 8:54 am

      Let me just stick my head in and hail someone who read Chaucer for fun. [virtual high-five]. I’m a history professor and have been reading similar stuff to stay sane.

  7. Alexis I
    June 27, 2020 / 9:13 am

    I’ll have to get that book and read it, it sounds interesting! I have an online membership to WW which I have used for a long time – sometimes more, sometimes less. My mindset since I was a teenager is that I need to lose weight, and that mindset has been there no matter what my weight has been. It will be interesting to read about Nidetch and Meltzer and their experiences.
    In addition to walking, my own exercise has morphed into and doing pilates online (that girl with the pilates mat) and walking online (Leslie Sansone walk at home). One consequence of covid19 for me is the discovery of great resources on YouTube! For me, having someone else (even virtually) is much more of a motivator to move than trying to do it on my own.

  8. June 27, 2020 / 9:16 am

    I love your sneakers! I recently bought a similar pair, but they are gold where yours are red.

    Living in a small rural community where there is no gym and other fitness options are limited, I’ve always exercised at home. I’ve never been more thankful for that than during these past few months of Covid-19 shutdown as that was the one area of my life that it didn’t interfere with!

  9. Michelle McDonald
    June 27, 2020 / 9:21 am

    Thanks for this very timely and kind post. I too have not been as diligent as I’d like with exercising (which I really hate) in the past month. I’m feeling a little more inspired after reading your post and these comments from other readers :-).

  10. Elizabeth
    June 27, 2020 / 9:37 am

    That was an interesting podcast episode…my mom was on weight watchers while I was growing up. I learned a very rigid way of eating.. as a teen , my mom would stop my sister and I from seconds, telling us we had enough. Unlimited carrots or broccoli( no sauce, or oil, butter)were good. On one hand, I am very aware of hidden calories, portion sizes – which is good, but the rigid limits puts the emphasis on the wrong thing, and then to feel guilt if eat something “bad” ..

    Now, I am trying to eat a mostly whole plant food forward diet. But, enjoy a cheese burger once in awhile..

  11. June 27, 2020 / 11:04 am

    Yep, I was planing on exercising. Didn’t do it. Oh a few days. But then stopped. Eating? Yep, nervous eating. Just stuffing my mouth. But I’ve stopped making cookies. I figure that’s a plus. I’ll have to check out that book and podcast. Lot of goodies. Thank you.

    • Linda
      June 27, 2020 / 11:41 am

      Hi Sandra. I’ve not been virtuous about exercise eihter. Also like you, I stopped baking after the first week. Knew that would not be a good direction, sadly.

  12. M
    June 27, 2020 / 11:35 am

    Of a similar height to you Susan, sadly not a similar size, I hear your weight struggles, yet can’t but help take note of all the beautiful clothes you wear that are in either a small or extra small size.

    • Lagatta de Montréal
      June 28, 2020 / 2:31 pm

      Indeed. I was really too heavy for my little frame around the menopause, but have lost quite a bit due to lack of appetite starting with a UTI. This is good, but I’ll never get to small or extra-small if only because of my boobs. My meals are in tapas dishes, which is probably all I need. But not eliminating olive oil!

  13. Linda
    June 27, 2020 / 11:52 am

    Thank you for the podcast recommendation, Susan! In these times, I’m always searching for new ones.

  14. Angela in NZ
    June 27, 2020 / 1:42 pm

    I was just about to join WW 40 years ago when I discovered I was pregnant and that was as far as I got. Like you I’ve had weight “issues” all my life, not helped one bit by the fact that my bone structure is not petite and no measuring system seems to take account of one’s skeleton. At a more senior age now, I feel it’s far more important to concentrate on the nutritional needs of an aging body to preserve overall wellbeing, ahead of appearance for it’s own sake. Following the premise of the 80/20 rule of good and treat foods seems to deal better with the conflicts going on in our heads. Oh, and exercise beyond walking and gardening has always seen me fall behind on my good intentions. My mother lived until she was 92 with the same beliefs, so fingers crossed I’ve inherited most of her genetic makeup. 😉

  15. Linda Simpson
    June 27, 2020 / 3:44 pm

    Having a small bone structure and being 5’3″, while having a tiny mother and small father, I always struggled with weight issues. Of course, I grew up with Twiggy in my teens. In today’s world, she would be considered almost overweight based on the sizing back then. I am now 69 years old, wear a size 6 even though I’ve gained several pounds through the years. Fortunately, I try (most of the time) to walk the 10,000 daily steps and use my stationary bike. I was able to start back to my zumba classes two weeks ago, and I push myself hard. Still, I feel the old critic coming out and saying that I need to lose more, do more, etc. You are correct; we are our harshest critics, and I’m also an all or nothing gal. My health is great, so I shouldn’t worry. Maybe in my 80s, I’ll get over it. lol

  16. Linda
    June 28, 2020 / 12:42 pm

    Your post has so much food for thought (no pun intended)! I spent the first 3 months of the quarantine baking and eating! As a consequence I put on 7 pounds that I didn’t really need!

    I was always extremely active when I was growing up. I guess I was somewhat for a tomboy! I swam, ice skated, played field hockey and tennis. I’m pretty petite 5’3″ and used to think that my scale only had one number 110! Even at that weight, I thought I was fat! The truth is, I have always had muscles, which was not the norm or the “style” when I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s! i also recently realized that my mother had an eating disorder and that also made me look at food as an enemy, not something to be enjoyed!

    Over the years, I came to terms with being fit, as it would now be called! But, sometimes I still have that magic 110 number in my head and feel like I’m a failure because I’m 20 pounds above. Starting in June, i realized that I need to lose those 7 pounds, maybe 12! I started running daily and doing zoom yoga classes. So far, I was able to lose 4 pounds, so that’s a start. I wonder how many women our age, are suffering from the effects of our mother’s relationships with food and body image?

  17. BethS
    June 30, 2020 / 7:56 am

    Interesting. The thing that strikes me about the Nidetch “before” & “after” photos is the style contrast rather than any weight loss. In the “before” photo, she’s wearing a shiny dress in a silhouette that doesn’t enhance her shape, she’s slumping her shoulders, and wearing shoes that don’t go with the dress. It looks staged to me, rather than a photo from an event that she was happy to attend. In the “after” pic, she’s wearing a svelte matte black sheath, with the white pulling the visual focus to her face. The giant beehive enhances her height. The position of her arms makes her shoulder line look strong enhancing her slimness. I think my point is just that we ALL have assets and deficits, regardless of shape/size/weight/etc. Some of us need to make a little more effort than others—-but we are all gorgeous. Accepting that can be hard.

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