6 Oct

The punishing lengths vanity will send a middle-aged man to

Reinvention is usually the result of a spur. I was talking to my pal Miss J the other day, and said that vanity has its good side–and perhaps I needed more of it. “How so?” said she. I recounted the tale of a someone with frozen shoulder syndrome (a diabetes related disability), whose awareness of his teen splendor drove him to exercise ferociously, learn yoga, stretch till he practically ripped in half–and not only kept it at bay, but got rid of it. Or of another pal whose horror of a beer belly–and a love for beer–keeps him running and going to the gym on the regular, punishing his 54-year-old self. I just didn’t have that. From a fashionable grad in my early 20s, middle age and the results of thyroid medication (after a successful cancer operation) have/had turned me into a schlub. Clothes are for comfort, not a form of creative expression. I haven’t been to the doctor to deal with my heel issues, instead limping about in undashing (and perhaps not the best) shoes. My waistline, once 20 inches–well, let’s stop right there. Makeup when I think of it. Some of this, of course, is due to good things, like not being overconcerned with other others’ opinions, or having the confidence to be self-accepting, to stick my tongue out at all the external pressure to conform to a slimmer body type, even in the name of health.

Pisarro or Picasso? Gladwell sees different genius paths in both

But. While I don’t think I need strive to fit into the clothes I wore as a 20 year old (women over 42 should be cautious about being too thin–scraggy necks result, as do deepening naso-labial folds; I have neither), self-care definitely gives one a lift, I do feel expressing creativity should extend to one’s appearance, and–well, reinvention of appearance often coincides with other reinvigoration. I’m writing like a wild woman, actually improving my housekeeping (at least in my own eyes), participating in more things. It may be a second wind, but I prefer to think it’s related to Malcolm Gladwell‘s What the Dog Saw essay concerning genius at a young age and genius at a later stage–here’s the great original version from the New Yorker. In any case, with modest but interconnected goals, I am making a public pledge here.

By the end of the year (craftily omitting whether I speak of an academic or calendar year), I shall: reduce my waistline to at least 30, eat without so many snacks (my base meals are normally very healthy–it’s what I add), fully buy into the Project 330 wardrobe paring and planning, and redevelop a personal style. Such modest goals! And I shall do all of this thriftily.

How so, you ask? Forget exercise and diet programs you pay for. While I have not been too much of a repeat offender, I have gone to Weight Watchers and to Curves. Did they help? Yes, I have to say they did; Curves in particular got me moving without complaint and showed steady results with little time inv. But since I don’t drive, getting to them is a problem, and I tend to waste my membership that way–and it mounts up. The Y? Same problem. There are now two yoga classes nearby and I would like to be more limber, but NO MONEY is going to change. This will be a DIY operation, yet I believe it can still be successful if I commit to it. I have some of the tools already–and so do you.

Spark People: great free site to help you track calories in, calories out--plus more

I’m lucky–I neither have diabetes, high blood pressure nor high cholesterol. But if I did, I would find this awesome resource even more spectacular. Available as a free iPad app or as a free website, my highest praise goes to SparkPeople. It is a fabulous resource that looks at both calories and exercise, and can hook you up with encouraging online buddies who share your interests as well as your wish for a trimmer version of yourself. It’s so well-organized, it tempts you into participation (I particularly like the iPad version). Weight loss is a calorie game; there are no magic secrets. SparkPeople asks you for a goal and then sets a daily calorie limit and graphs your day as you inch closer. It also has a plethora of exercise activities with video instructions. Now, exercise is a dirty word to me–but I love to dance, and I’m going to exploit that and track it on Spark People. I’ve already got a little momentum going–at 55, I’m going to have my first mammogram (yes, I can hear the collective indrawn breath from my hermetically sealed abode) later this month (hey, my 92 year old mom’s never had one! I feel positively virtuous!).

As earlier reported, a closet purge is ongoing, and the wardrobe issues will soon be plotted. I’ll be reporting back on progress and observations, and pleased that I didn’t give into a common American impulse–to see a problem and throw money at it. Join me! The impetus for all this was the summer thought “I used to have an exciting life” (I really did). Well, what’s stopping me now? Nothing, nothing, nothing. My savings on bodily improvement are going towards a special adventure fund. Because once the basics are taken care of, it’s life enrichment (your own and others’) that make money useful. Be a fellow Bon Vivant!


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