Baby Boomer / Health and Fitness

How to Hold Yourself Together

Does this dress make me look fat? Don’t answer that if you value your life!

The women in my family are not skinny. Some are fit, but none are thin. I remember, as a child, thinking my grandma looked like a barrel with legs. She mostly wore house-dresses, but on special occasions she would dress up, usually in a black dress with a large white collar.

I learned the art of re-direction from Grandma Gussie; between her dazzling blue-green-gold eyes and the giant white collar, nobody looked at her middle. I, being only 3 feet tall at the time, was at eye level with her belly. This is where she carried the bulk of her weight; the rest was in her arms. We have, what I think of, as the “Jewish Arms”. The kind whose “wings” can knock you out if you get in the way. Some Italian grandmas have this, too.

It wasn’t until I started ballet lessons at the age of six that I realized there was such a thing as posture and body alignment. I can still hear Lea and Gia, my childhood ballet teachers, saying: “Tuck in your tummy! Make believe there is a string pulling your head up to the ceiling. Tuck your bottom under!” That took a major effort. My normal relaxed stance was butt out, tummy relaxed with a profile that resembled the letter “S”.  I was warned this could cause back problems.

It wasn’t much later in life that I learned the significance of that warning. Having been on the yo-yo weight program most of my life, I can attest to the dangers of carrying extra weight and holding oneself in misalignment. Oy vey! I work hard to keep my weight down and be mindful of my posture, but I also like to eat, drink and make merry. I don’t let anything stand in my way when I’m in party mode; and, of course, there’s always a party somewhere!

This cycle tends to run in the twenty pound range (not that I need a scale to tell me when I’m reaching the upper limit). I refuse to buy larger clothing. When I get to the point where everything is tight – well except the African-style one-size-fits-all caftan I wear as often as possible  – I go back on the “program” which is basically starvation and running until I fit back into the clothes.

We are all programmed and shaped by childhood role models, genetics, and conscious choices we make in our lifestyle. I will never forget when I was in my early twenties living in San Francisco, trying to figure out what to do with my life. I took an interim job at Harvey Wallbanger’s, a bar/restaurant at the new Embarcadero Center. Some of you may remember when the drink of the same name was all the rage: vodka, orange juice and Galiano. Hmmmm, sounds good!

Our uniform was a tight, stretchy top, hot pants and white go-go boots. After six months of working there, I went on vacation to Europe for two weeks. I ate every pastry in France, and drank every stein of beer in Germany I could get my hands on. I enjoyed each and every moment and came back bursting at the seams. I wouldn’t think it possible, but I managed to gain eighteen pounds in two weeks! At my height (not very tall) that is huge!

It was time to go on the “program”; I was all too aware of my weight gain. Fortunately, my red uniform pants were made of stretch fabric, and I squeezed into them. It was my first day back to work, and I was standing at the bar getting my cocktail  tray set up for the day when I heard my boss’s booming voice from behind me:  “What is THAT at the bar? The back end of a sow? Who let a sow in here? Oh, C.J. It’s you! What the hell happened to you? I can see you ate your way through Europe.”

Those words still reverberate in my head some forty years later. I lost the weight as quickly as I gained it (went on a 10 day fast), and my hot pants once again looked HOT. I don’t remember my boss’s name, I don’t remember his face, but I do remember how he made me feel with his cruel words.

I saw a picture of me the other day in one of my tight, stretchy outfits. Oh no! How did I get so fat? It’s time to go on the program! I took a look in the mirror the other day; I’m turning into Humpty Dumpty. My back is bothering me because I let myself get out of alignment. The “S’ curve is back. It’s time to do core work – sit-ups and crunches. It’s time to eat salads and burn the blubber. I know – I’ll go to Zumba!

I go to Atenas’s community center, Su Espacio’s Dance-Fit with Tina on Tuesdays and Thursdays; Zumba with Danna Mondays and Wednesdays. I walk Toby, my chocolate lab, around the hills of Roca Verde. I walk around “sucking it in” – trying to get my belly-button to touch my spine to correct my alignment. It’s helping.

I was complaining to one of my sister-friends, Colette,  the other day. Her kind words carry me through the day: “You are not FAT! Take that word out of your vocabulary. You, my dear, are a beautiful woman, and I don’t see your body when I look at you, because your light is shining so brightly!”

Today I will hold myself together by tilting my pelvis forward, doing a hundred crunches, and remembering the kind words of my friend.

Let your light shine!

15 thoughts on “How to Hold Yourself Together

  1. This should go out to all women. YOU ARE NOT FAT, you are too hard on yourself, and yoyo dieting is not good for your insides. You, my dear, are one of the most beautiful women I know. Not fat, don’t go there. Sending love.


  2. This is just wonderful. I have so many of my own stories, also beginning in childhood. We have so much to share! and yes, when I ‘see’ you, it is your light that shines through, always.


  3. lovely piece Carole….words are mightier than the sword can’ t remember who said that but so true….I remember going to Harvey Wallbangers….


  4. I have always thought of you as thin and beautiful. One of my memories is of you walking down some stairs from your apt somewhere in the Bay Area to get in the car – dark brown hair, fabulous figure and the prettiest girl I had ever seen. And another time you gave a party in that red super skinny kimono type dress, when you lived south of S.F. (another marriage, another time). You used to kid and laugh about Jewish arms. If only any of us could look as good as you. Well, Lynda Thurman is also very fit and looks good. What is the matter with any of us???!!! Men are just not that way.


  5. Geni, you totally cracked me up! YES, I did talk about Jewish arms even way back then. Yeah, I was trying to make a point about body image. NONE of us see ourselves the way others see us. Thank you for such compliments, my gorgeous friend. YOU look fabulous. I thought of you when I have my tattoo enhanced – enlarged and added vivid colors. You have the most beautiful one and it was way before the modern ink craze! We should have patented calisthenics to music before aerobics was invented. Remember the vibrating belts???


  6. PS: When you have time, could you email me Carole? I have an idea to run by you and can’t find a contact page here. Thanks so much.

    veggiecook @ myway . com

    Have a wonderful day!

    I hope the carrot cake is a big hit, it’s so delish. 😉 Not too sweet either with the icing recipe I included with my post.


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