Perhaps it is the triple whammy of birthday, getting sick, and the fact that the summer is more than half over. Combined with a second wave COVID spike, re-experiencing fear and caution amid attempts to return to a somewhat more normal life, I find that I am in a funk. I am battling old demons.

Unlike a lot of people, I luckily didn’t gain the dreaded “COVID 19”. I fluctuated a couple pounds up and down, but mostly stayed the same. Yet, as the weather got warmer and I switched to my summer clothes, they did not fit as well. My upper back seemed broader and my waistbands a little tighter. I decided to go back to exercise class at OrangeTheory.

That’s how I found myself standing next to Shari for the first time in 15 months. Shari is the chef/owner of two of my favorite restaurants in town. We knew each other but not well.

I knew the year had been hard for her. The first week of closed businesses my family had ordered takeout from her restaurant. I had driven over to pick up the food. When the governor had closed restaurants to indoor dining, she had laid off most of her employees. She and her two daughters and two cooks were trying to do everything. OrangeTheory was the first time we had spoken since that night.

“How are you doing? How are your daughters?” I asked.

“We’re fine. One graduated high school without a graduation and the other graduated college without a graduation. I’m glad that things are opening up.” Shari replied.

“Have you been coming here the whole year?” I continued.

“No. I just started back. I hate to exercise.” She stated emphatically.

I nodded. “This makes it easier. I come and exercise hard for 60 minutes. Someone yells at me and tells me what to do. I walk out sweaty and then I can get on with my day. I even signed up for the body change challenge.” I countered.

“Me too. But it doesn’t matter.” Shari answered. “I’ve come to the realization. Fuck dieting. I look just like my mother and my grandmother. These strong arms allow me to mix and cook. Why is it that people remark… ‘You look great, did you lose weight?’ How about I look great period? I am way more than what I weigh. I am a successful businesswoman. I’m funny. I’m a member of the community.”

I looked at Shari with admiration. She was so right. How about you just look great? In two days, I’d be 61 and I still worried constantly about what I weighed and how I looked. When would I put those demons to rest? When would I value myself for more than the number on the scale?

Despite her inspirational words, despite buying myself a flirty new summer dress, I started a downward spiral. My birthday passed and I found it hard to access my inner Shari.

Last Sunday, for the first time this summer, we golfed and had fun with friends. Just as we were teeing off the other woman complained about “aches and pains”.

“I’ve just noticed my body is a little stiffer and doesn’t bounce back as easily.” She said.

“Have you turned 60 yet?” I asked.

“I did in May.” She replied.

Just like that I felt a little better. I was able to acknowledge that maybe I too was feeling a little older, a little stiffer, a little less flexible in many ways. Maybe I need to be nicer to myself. Maybe after 50 years of dieting, I need to start by making Shari’s words a mantra. “Fuck dieting.” Besides, I look a lot like my Dad, and he and he looks pretty great for 89.

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