You're strong... right? (Are you effing kidding me??)

"I wish I could more like you. You always walk with such confidence..."   Huh?.... This was something that was spoken to me about 15 years ago. I never really forgot it. It Easter Sunday at a church service, back in the day when our family were regular church goers. I can even tell you what I was wearing. I had on a pale pastel aqua suit with a skirt and jacket. I had bought that to wear on Easter so that's why I know when it was. I remember this, because I think I had been on a weight loss plan at the time, and I was proud that I had been able to fit into that suit, which was a size 16 (EU 46, UK 20). 


I have to tell you I was absolutely dumbfounded at that comment. The young woman who said it was a 30-something year old mother with a wonderful husband and two children under ten years old. She was about five feet three inches tall (160 cm), if that, had a beautiful face with those big, doe-like eyes, clear pale skin, delicate face and really great hair. She probably weighed 100 pounds (46 kilos). She was petite and beautiful. She was kind, well-liked, served in the church, and her husband was just as kind-hearted as she was. Her kids were sweet and well-behaved. Her family was considered by everyone, including myself, to be all around good people (there is no 'but' coming, they really are nice people). I was a harried, overweight mom with teen-aged children, partially caretaking my elderly parents who lived up the street and spent what time I could working two part-time bookkeeping jobs at the church for extra cash. My life was a ball of stress. She really wanted to be more like me?  Seriously? 


I really wanted to laugh at the absurdity of her comment, because every time I looked at her, I wanted to be like her: petite, small and beautiful with those delicate features and that sort-of fragile demeanor that would inspire the chivalrous knight to ride in on his white horse and say, "Don't worry m'lady, I will take care of you...." 


What I got was my rompin' stompin' self, sprinkled with the crazy red-headed personality and a 'robust' body shape that makes you think in a former life I was a bar maid in some European country who could deliver ten full beer steins at a time, five in each hand, and still manage to keep the male patrons from pinching my ass as I walked by.  


That was me.  It was so.... not her. And she actually wanted.. that???


She didn't want to be more like me. Seriously. What she wanted was what I appeared to have. What she saw when I walked. She saw strength, determination and someone who didn't hesitate, someone who just forged ahead. These are not traits that I attribute to myself. These are my interpretations of what she saw in me. What I was actually doing was just putting one foot in front of the other.  What she didn't know was that I was probably on automatic pilot most of the time, just trying to get through that moment to tackle the next big thing. At that time, I was struggling with depression, in therapy dismantling all the effects of being molested as a child by a distant male relative and working feverishly to keep my shit together so my marriage stayed intact, and my kids wouldn't end up as high school drop-outs, on drugs and/or pregnant (lucky for us they far exceeded that very low bar.)  She saw someone who was determined to not let everything fall apart. Apparently, my walk reflected all of that. 


Reflected someone who isn't 'weak.'


Weak is an interesting word. It has such negative connotations.  I must confess I use it, so I'm guilty of using that word in a negative context with respect to people who can't open jars, people who stay with partners who abuse them, people who choose a toxic partner over the welfare of their own kids, people who aren't disciplined enough and can't resist junk food on a diet... oh wait... that last one could be ME.  Yep, we all can be what I would describe as 'weak,' depending on the circumstances. I can be, have been, and will be weak on many occasions.


What I believe is just as bad, however, is being told you're 'strong.' But it's intended and received as a complement. 


Strong implies a lot. Think about it. When you are in a relationship with a so-called strong person, it absolves you from the responsibility of ever having to care-take, nurture, protect, or step up, because they are 'strong' and don't need that, right? They can handle whatever life throws their way. They don't need much, if anything. There is nothing you can do for them that they can't do for themselves, right? So, are you the 'weak' one who gets the nurturing or the 'strong' one who doesn't need it? For your sake, I hope it's neither and that all your relationships, familial, friendship and romantic, are well-balanced. 


What got me thinking about all this? Believe it or not, a dinner at my sister-in-law's house yesterday. My sister-in-law, like me, is perceived to be strong, independent and very capable. She had a very challenging career which probably molded her but I'm guessing she came out of the womb that way, based on knowing her for 35 years. She is a widow of seven years who is unattached at present and has spent the last several years reaping the consequences of being associated with the term 'widow.'


Widow is a status of marriage that would prompt a 'weak' or 'strong' description. I was surprised at some of her revelations at being a widow. First and foremost, there is always a 'widow' price for a service where the cost is subjective. Either she gets a 'poor widow' discount, or she gets the 'let's take advantage of her" price. She discovered this early on.  Makes you wonder whether it's the 'weak' or 'strong' assumption that yields the price. Additionally, she has found that men do not want to date widows... they think they will die if they date you (death cooties?) or you will spend eternity pining for that deceased spouse, and not be able to love them fully.  I kid you not.  It was to the point where she would not reveal her widow status to prospective romantic partners until she had to. 


Yesterday, she was telling me she was a bit sad about the fact that she had spent several weeks helping her childhood friend get through the death of her mother, traveling out of state to help her with decisions, organizations, and even holding her friend's hand in the middle of the night while she wailed in her grief.  I remember meeting this friend for the first time when my husband brought me home to meet his family. She and his sister were very close. Very different people, but close. After they got married and had kids, they had drifted apart for several years, catching up very rarely, and now this death had brought them back together. My sister-in-law took over and did all kinds of things during this time for her friend, as her friend seemed unable to do them herself. 


She remarked that her friend hadn't contacted her recently and hadn't responded to her last few texts. Her friend had recently met a retired gentleman and was dating him. My sister-in-law was happy for her and supportive of her in this new relationship but was upset that the communication between them had dwindled down to nothing from her friend's end in the last three months. This made her sad and frustrated. She thought they had reconnected given all they had just been through together and now it appears they have drifted apart again, or rather her friend has drifted apart. I made the comment that maybe her friend didn't need her, so she wasn't going to contact her as much. 


That prompted her to comment that she was sick and tired of people thinking that just because she is strong, independent, and has a very full life, that she doesn't need the support of a friend to talk to or to be there for her.  


I thought about it and realized that I have been treated like that as well. I can hear the unsaid "you're strong, you don't have problems, you don't have to worry about money (ridiculous), you have a good marriage (because we work at it), your kids are self-sufficient and thriving. What could you need?  What could possibly be wrong in your life?


Let's face it folks, we all have what my mom called the "fair weather friends." The ones you see when they really need a friend, but don't really check in with you to see how you are doing 'just because.'  You never get 'just because,' because they believe you don't need anyone. 


Admittedly, there are fewer people in my life now like that than there were 20 years ago, because the friendships that were one-sided were just not as important to me as time went on and I decided that I didn't need to hang onto that.   


Maybe that young mother didn't have what I had at that point because she just didn't need it... yet...  But she would need it later... and find it. Her husband developed brain cancer in his 30s and died after a few years later. It was a horribly sad event in our church community.  I believe their son was barely three-years old when he passed.  If you want to talk about having strength. She found it in boat loads. But I'm guessing that she still needed an army of friends and family to help her and was glad to have them.


I believe it's important at times to look at our lives with a different perspective.  If you are on this journey with me, we are trying to change our relationship with food. I'm pretty sure there are other areas of our lives that need changing as well. I think as we begin to find balance with respect to our eating habits, we can also do this in other areas in our lives with respect to our professional lives and with relationships. It might be time to take a look at some of those interpersonal relationships in your life and ask yourself if you have some one-sided relationships that need balance, or maybe you a relationship that you just don't need to have at all. Are you in a relationship where you are the perceived 'strong' one who doesn't need anything or the 'weak' one who never has to step up? Maybe whatever you are doing in that relationship is working for you, but is it working for the other person?  


Only you can decide what to do about your own relationships. I'm not a therapist. Just someone who ponders a lot of stuff and wants to help you lose weight if that is your wish. 


Before I forget, I want to let you know that a few years later, the young mother met the most wonderful man at her parent's church who adored her children. She later married him and had additional children.  Last time I saw her before she moved away, she was very, very happy.


Taking stock of day 14:

It's an unusual 20F outside (-6C). it's not supposed to get this cold here... The sidewalk and driveway are both icy.  So, we are not going anywhere by car. I did volunteer and go next door to monitor my sister-in-law's Maltipoo do her business outside as I'm not allergic to cold weather and she is.  I believe that will be the extent of my exercise today.

I did not exceed my daily calorie allowance.

Tomorrow is weigh-in day.


(photo courtesy of Julia Larson)

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7th Decade Redhead
7th Decade Redhead

I'm 60+ years old female retiree who is finally figuring out why she's been struggling with losing weight her whole life. I want to share the lessons I learned so others can help themselves with their own weight loss struggles earlier in their lives.

60 Pounds by 60 Years
60 Pounds by 60 Years

My final weight loss attempt after 40 years of different diet failures. No shakes, no supplements, no surgery, no crazy food, no purchased meal plans, no fasting. Creating a healthier relationship with food and facing the painful truth about my relationship surrounding food. No BS, just common sense. And it worked.

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