Yesterday morning I stepped away from my computer desk and into the sunlight streaming through a nearby window. When I turned around and saw my shadow, I was struck by the symbolism of it and had to grab my camera to capture and preserve that image.
My flesh-and-bone legs are not that long and slender, so the shadow doesn't represent how I look. The shadow is a sun-painted portrait of how I feel.
In the summer of 2010 I was fat, tired all the time, in constant pain from arthritis, and convinced that those conditions would only get worse over time. Knee pain kept me from sleeping well and severely restricted where I could go and what I could do. If I sat in a car for more than half an hour, I was so stiff I could hardly move when I got out of it. Sitting still in a movie was excruciating, and climbing the stairs in a theater with stadium seating was even worse. A trip to the grocery store put me off my feet for hours, and one round at Walmart would cost me the next day, too.
"Eat healthy and live longer"? Pffft! I guess not. Who wants to add on extra years of pain and confinement?
I'd gained weight, lost it, and regained it so many times through the years that I couldn't imagine doing it again. For the past five years my (over)weight had remained constant, so I had apparently reached the point where the calories contained in the foods (and quantities of them) I wanted to eat amounted to exactly the number of calories required to maintain my weight.
Then my daughter made me mad. Spittin' mad. She had recently started a low-carb diet and was giving me the hard-sell to try it with her. For half an evening she pushed and pushed and pushed until I agreed to try it just to shut her up. I agreed to try it for a month. That was in August of 2010, and I started the diet a couple weeks later at the beginning of September.
A year later, the end of August and beginning of September 2011, I rode in my sister's car for day-long stretches from Louisiana to the Smoky Mountains. I walked through museums and hiked up hills. Was I tired afterward? Oh, yes. But I was able to do it, and if there was any achiness afterwards, it wasn't enough to keep me from sleeping soundly in a strange bed.
I can squat to refill the dogs' water dish, though I can't yet stay long in a squatting position. I still don't like to get down on the floor, but if I have to do it, I can get up more easily than I could before. I can walk through the Super Walmart much more quickly these days, and if I forget something and have to walk back across the store when I remember it, that's no longer a problem.
I still have arthritis. That doesn't go away, but the pain from it has diminished enough that I can control it with over-the-counter meds instead of expensive prescription NSAIDs. I still take medicine for hypertension--about a third of what I took before. My cholesterol count dropped enough that the doctor said we could see how I do without it, so I haven't had to take that for the last few months. I was taking two Prilosec tablets a day; now I take half of one. No need to tell you what this has done for my pocketbook.
I've lost just over 70 pounds, and I need to lose 20 or 30 more. It's coming off slowly now, and I won't know when I've lost enough until I see it. I can eat a piece of cake that's thrust into my hand at a baby shower, and if the restaurant dish I've ordered surprises me by containing rice, I can eat it, enjoy it, and not feel guilty about it. Most of the time, though, I don't eat those things. They don't tempt me anymore. I've learned through trial and error that a lot of the illness I was feeling a year ago was related to spikes and drops in blood sugar levels, and I simply don't want to feel like that again. I'm no longer on a diet; I've just changed the way I plan to eat for the rest of my life.
Now that it isn't so painful to move my limbs, I need to begin an exercise program. So, yes, I still have some work to do. It'll get done eventually, and "eventually" seems soon enough now that the idea of living longer has a renewed appeal.
I'll be 69 next month. And that tall, thin girl in the shadow? She's alive again.