Good For You

I’ve never seen a fat honey bee. This, despite their diet of some of the sweetest stuff out there. Those ladies are going 90 miles an hour round-the-clock, though, so that could have something to do with their trim figures.

As a kid, I ate whatever I could get my hands on in our family of five siblings, which amounted to whatever my mother served, like it or not. She was no short-order cook. On Saturdays, my brother and I had a few hours of cartoons before the house came alive, and I’d make us a breakfast of what I liked to call cinnamon toast. The recipe was easy: toasted bread slathered with butter and a sparse sprinkle of cinnamon, each slice coated with no less than a solid 1/4 cup of sugar. This was a Saturday morning given for months until my older sister discovered our sly concoction and told on us. My non-rotten teeth are begrudgingly grateful to her for the staged intervention.

But it didn’t matter. I was a knobby-kneed skinny kid, all elbows and hip bones. Even my hair was thin and fine, able to hold limitless static electricity but not a single barrette. My father used to pretend he’d lost sight of me in the living room. “There you are! You must have turned sideways and disappeared,” he’d say. “You must have to move around in the shower just to get wet.” Hardy-har-har. “I need an after-dinner toothpick — c’mere, Bon!”

A few(ish) years ago, I slammed into the proverbial metabolism wall called Welcome to Your Forties. After two kids and a love of carbs, my metabolism waved its white flag. Once, a friend’s precocious four-year-old, who’d clearly watched too many drug commercials, saw me take an aspirin and said, “Are those the purple pills? Because you’re not supposed to take the purple ones if you’re nursing or pregnant, and you look like you could be pregnant.” My youngest was six at the time. Years, not months.

For awhile I went to a gym semi-regularly but wound up so sore I could hardly lift my arms to steer the car. Then I threw my back out and decided to love me anyway, extra belt notches and all. I never played sports. I used to dread the annual presidential fitness test in gym class. Sit ups? Arm hang? Running? Ugh. Growing up, I rode horses, which does involve exertion, but truth be told — who’s really doing all the heavy lifting in that sport? The one with two extra legs and a penchant for carrots.

A few years ago we helped chaperone our son’s Spanish trip to Peru, where we visited Machu Picchu. Climbing hundreds of feet into the clouds at high altitude didn’t actually kill me, but there were points in the hike when I thought it might. At the gym, I’d met an amazing lady in her mid 70’s who was a master swimmer in her younger years. She had just hiked Machu Picchu herself, on a three-day climb, so how hard could it be? Pretty darn difficult, it turns out, for a panda-shaped person such as myself. The lithe teens in the group scampered up the trail like minks, while we parents eyed each other in solidarity, wheezing in the thin air.

Just last year we visited our daughter in Florence when she was studying abroad. Being the resident expert, she planned some of our itinerary, which is how we wound up booked to climb 436 steps to the top of the Duomo. “Are our children trying to kill us?” we asked each other. If we were on the African savanna, the lions would have painted bright red targets on our backs as the easy weed-outs.

So this year, just shy of a new decade, I started a new venture. No sugar, caffeine, gluten, or processed foods. It’s like 365 days of Lent. I’m “eating clean.” This begs the question of what “eating dirty” might look like. I have my own ideas about that.

It isn’t terrible. It’s no “cinnamon toast,” either, but it’s sustainable and I think I can actually keep it up. It comes with a new vocabulary and some forays into new foods. I’ve actually eaten (and liked!) spiraled beets, hummus, hemp hearts, and chia seeds. It started with a detox, where every day began with a cup of hot water, lemon, and a teaspoon of ACV (apple cider vinegar), or what I like to call the vomit of Satan. Couldn’t do it, not even while slamming it and holding my nose. Also, I’m naturally suspicious of ingesting anything that has a “living mother” in it. In the same vein, the only kefir I can tolerate is Jack Bauer from 24.

Each day the goal is to drink a gallon of water. Do you know how much a gallon of water is? It is approximately this much:

This means I’m right back to sixteen years ago when I had a toddler in tow and had to stop at EVERY SINGLE public bathroom on my errand route. Sometimes twice. Only now I’ve had two kids and “things” have shifted, so there is no such thing as holding it. Jumpsuits or rompers are never, ever in my future.

Slowly, I started easy workouts at home with my new, fancy yoga mat. Body, mind, spirit, right? Exercise has never been my best friend, or let’s be honest, even a semi-close acquaintance. I will never run a whole or half anything, but to climb the Duomo without paramedics standing by would require practice. I kept at it, progressing nicely, until one day I caught my cat looking at me with an expression both sarcastic and bewildered…

I don’t need that much ridicule in my life. Now I go to a nearby gym that I love. I’ve learned several new words there. For instance, burpees are not what you coax from your infant after a good feeding, apparently. Suicides are not tragic endings (well, except in my case sometimes they are), and plank position is not that weird lying-flat fad from about 10 years ago.

As long as I’m intentional and deliberate, this new path is walk-able. I don’t know why we so fiercely resist doing things that are good for us. We’re like toddlers fighting naps. We’d rather sit and scream and rail using all manner of energy and emotion than just do it already for goodness’ sake. This goes for not just eating better or taking a walk, but also unplugging, reading, making progress towards goals, flossing. Women make this a professional gig, nurturing friends, family, children, even the bagger at the grocery store, leaving crumbs for ourselves. It is not good for us to exist on hurry, excuses, fear, depression, sugar, coffee, and wine. It will not end well.

A good-for-you life is an abundant one, one where we indulge in the good stuff so it overflows like the loaves and fishes. The really good stuff, not the fake, pretend mock-ups. Instead of posing the question “is this (behavior, activity, direction) bad enough I should stop?” ask instead “is this good enough to stay this way?” Lets in a whole different light, doesn’t it?

My conveyor belt at the grocery store yesterday contained spinach, celery, peppers, and blueberries. At the end I hefted a 25 pound bag of sugar onto it, and the cashier raised an eyebrow. “That’s a lot of sugar,” she said. Sheesh. Had she known my nark sister when I was little?

“It’s for feeding the bees,” I replied, “Not me. All the rest of this is for me.”

“Good for you!” she enthused. Yes, yes it is.