I took part in an odd exchange a couple of days ago on Facebook; I won’t link to it because it was truly trivial. But it did make me think…
The exchange had to do with one person saying they could stop worrying and let the natural expansion that comes with age take place–in other words, pudge out at least a little.
I offered a snarky comeback (knowing the person was a lot younger than I am) noting that I’m 65 and prefer not to allow “natural expansion”: how old did I need to be before weight no longer mattered?
The person responded with their actual age. And another person, just a couple years younger than I am, offered a comment saying that they no longer cared what others thought about how they look or what they weigh.
In all cases, I’m paraphrasing, possibly badly, but I’m also not naming names or offering links. Both of the others involved are good people, and I have no quarrel with either of them.
Not just for others
I do pay reasonable attention to my weight–which is currently, and has been for a couple of years, within two pounds of 160 at any given point, one way or the other. (I’m roughly 5’10″; I was 5’11″, but have shrunk a little, which does seem to be a common consequence of aging.)
Reasonable attention? Only this: I have dessert frequently and eat as much as I want to. If my weight started creeping up past 162 for more than a day or two (or for more than two weeks after a vacation or other trip), I’d probably cut back…just a little. (If my weight started falling below 158, I’d wonder if anything else was going on. Below 155, I start losing energy reserves.)
Although I’m sure my wife wouldn’t be happy if I started “natural expansion” back to the 165-170 I weighed for years or beyond that (175 appears to be my BMI touchstone–that is, above 175 and I’d be in the slightly-overweight category), that’s not my primary reason for staying at a good weight.
My primary reason boils down to wanting to be healthy, active, and ideally still free of prescription drugs when I’m 85, and with luck when I’m 90.
I know I’m lucky: Genetics has a lot to do with all these things. I also suspect that being able to walk far enough, briskly enough and with no assistance when you’re truly getting on in years has much to do not only with how much weight you’re carrying around but with whether you were walking a lot in earlier years. And I’m reasonably convinced that, all else being equal, maintaining a reasonable weight will serve me well in the long run in other ways.
No, I’m not a health nut. I do try to eat at least 2-5 servings of fruit & vegetables every day (but don’t do nearly as well as I should), but I’m also an omnivore, eating meat with some frequency. Bacon? Oh yes, from time to time. Cheeseburgers (well, bacon cheeseburgers)? Not often–maybe once a month–but oh yes. (Fast food burgers? Not so much: I avoid fast food in general, partly as a matter of taste, partly because I think the calorie/enjoyment/nutrition/taste balance is better elsewhere.) Alcohol? Wine pretty much every day with dinner and, very infrequently, with lunch…and that’s about it. I suppose I’m really lucky in that I lost any taste for soft drinks decades ago. Candy? Similar to fast food: most of it just doesn’t taste all that good any more; I’ll take a handful of my dried fruit mix (five flavors of cranberries, two varieties of dried cherry, maybe a mix of other dried fruit) over most any candy any time. (Exception: Trader Joe’s 72% Dark Chocolate bars, but I rarely even eat those, and savor one-quarter bar at a time instead of chomping through the whole thing.)
(Supplements? Plain old senior vitamin pill, calcium citrate ‘cuz I’m lactose-intolerant so don’t drink milk, fish oil ‘cuz I don’t eat enough fish, and a half-dose glucosamine/chondroitin tablet because, while it might well be a placebo, taking it seems to keep away the shoulder pain I had at one point, and it appears to be a cheap and harmless placebo if it is that.) [As to the lactose intolerance, which is probably a lot more common among adults, even those of Northern European stock, than people think--if you're passing gas all the time, that could be one reason--while I don't drink milk, I do eat things containing dairy: lactase tablets as needed to the rescue.]
As far as I can tell, I’m not denying myself anything that I want. I am making a point to stay active, between the weekly 5 to 7-mile hikes and the 6x/week 1.5-mile “walks around the block” and, of course, walking for errands when that makes sense. I do try to avoid eating as an idle activity, snacking for the sake of snacking, and that turns out to be easy once it’s habitual: you’re not avoiding anything.
I’m not suggesting how others should live. There are lots of reasons for being a given weight, many of them not under personal control (I’m guessing), and I respect other people’s situations.
Incidentally, there are also lots of reasons some people are perhaps thinner than you might consider normal, and in many cases the reasons have nothing to do with vanity or with trying to feel superior. I can assure you that some underweight people would rather not be that way. It’s as offensive to sneer at people who are thin as it is offensive to sneer at people who are fat or fatter than you consider ideal.
I am saying that, for me at least–and, I think, for quite a few others–maintaining a given weight is for ourselves, not for how we look to others.