I don’t like to describe it as losing weight. But by losing 82 pounds (36.3 kilograms), I found something. I discovered my body for the first time at age 60. And I love it.
I like seeing my collarbone and the definition of my muscles in my shoulders and biceps. I like how my skin feels when the sunshine warms my arms and when I cross my shins when wearing shorts. I like when my heart pumps on a vigorous session on my elliptical and how my muscles all relax after a deep exhale. I even like the things about me that aren’t perfect, like my residual paunch.
Sixty isn’t supposed to be the age when you love your body. It’s the age when you expect it to start falling apart. My father didn’t make it to 60. My mom suffered a major stroke at 50, lost a leg from blood clots at 58, and died from a heart attack at 63. If I had continued my unhealthy lifestyle, I might have had the same fate. But here I am feeling the best I ever had in my life.
I needed to do more than drop weight. I had to change my relationship with my body.
From an early age, I was taught my body was something to fear. I was born with a club right foot. It required a series of surgeries from infancy to age 5 to correct. I still have the brace I wore as a toddler.
Even after the surgeries, I still had limitations. A two-day hiking trip in Boy Scouts was followed by three days of limping because my muscles froze up. I couldn’t run as well as the other kids. I was in adaptive PE in junior high school. But sports were discouraged by my family. I was in the gifted program, and sports “weren’t something smart kids do.” (Never mind some of the best athletes and cheerleaders at my high school were also honor students.)
Add to this the 1970s white suburban middle class discomfort about bodies in general. My mom had body image issues throughout her life that worsened when my father left her for a former Miss Huntington Beach. Society told us only certain types of bodies were worthy of attention, and that’s only to sell products or boost TV ratings. And if your body didn’t match that type, it’s not worthy.