It’s official. I’ve hit a new personal low.
I’ve joined the high blood pressure club, of all things. For years I’ve ached to get out of the house, join a group of like-minded individuals embracing the devilish delights of life. I’ve intended to do this, day after day, from a snug spot on my couch. While all I really embrace is a rather devilishly divine tub of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk.
Now here I am at the doctor’s office, alongside roughly 68 million other Americans, trying to shake my new inner self-portrait: Chunkaholic. I remind myself to eat less, do more. Breathe slow, run fast. Sit up straight and just sign the forms, already! I silently chastise myself for not joining the mile-high club or Oprah’s Book Club instead. I squint down at my hands, swollen and puffy like crescent rolls straight from the oven (mmm..that sounds good!). I need reading glasses, too, after forty years of perfect sight. I have sudden bouts of insomnia. Worst of all, I consume too much caffeine, or so I am told after a cold, thin-fingered breast-exam. The veins in my legs throb as wildly as my heart as words like blood clot, stroke, arthritis, diabetes are lobbed in my direction. I want to scream. “I’m not playing this game, remember? I like to sit on the side-lines!”
But I’m in it to win it whether I like it or not. Waiting for my score. Finding out how I rank. Wondering where I go from here.
I eye each thin, young doctor who looks me over and makes these startling pronouncements with a large spoonful of skepticism. Have they had five children? No! I think I’m doing just grand, after all I’ve survived. They aren’t impressed. Not one of them claps when I brag that, clogged arteries or not, I can still do a cart-wheel. Mostly these doctors scoff at me in all my pasty plumpness. They measure and weigh my bits and parts, then poke and prod, only to finally size me up as scornfully as they would a Hostess Ding-Dong (mmm…that sounds good, too!).
My primary care physician cuts right to the chase. “Walking kids to and from school is not ‘exercise enough’ for a person of your stature, Mrs. Kirk. Neither is folding laundry or loading the dishwasher.” I’m told to take up exercise “for exercise sake” – pronto! Upon hearing this I rise from the medical slab in my rustly paper gown and lunge towards a bottle of prozac nestled in my purse. Dr. Mathews grabs my hands and sits me back down like a disobedient child. “Losing weight is accomplished by following a wondrously simple formula, Mrs. Kirk,” she says. “At it’s core it’s : calories in<energy output=weight loss.” She writes this down at the top of her clipboard then underscores it – twice. Then she rises and leaves the room.
I take off the paper gown. I swallow a prozac. I set the formula to memory. At home I vow not to purchase any more Super Fudge Chunk until I no longer see myself as one. I shove my little ladies into a sports bra, grab the kids, and head towards Bunny Hill. “Exercise for exercise sake!” I repeat maniacally in my head. I let my girls play at the playground while I attack the hill, running straight to the top ten times in a row. For each pass, I repeat a numbered slogan that captures my mood:
- One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do…by yourself, Super Chunk.
- Two be fat, or not to be fat? That is the question.
- Three entails the beginning, middle, and end…You’ve got the beginnings of a double chin and your middle’s hanging over your back-end, Lady. Step It Up!
- Four…When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear. Piss Off, Chunkington!
- Five Guys Burgers & Fries. Off-limits until you no longer answer to any name resembling Fatsy McFatterson.
- Six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Mmm – Bacon!
- Seven deadly sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony…that’s you, Miss California Super Fudge Chunk!
- Eight bits make a byte. Add drinks and dessert, and it makes a night.
- Nine rhymes with dine, which is fine, especially with wine.
- Ten….I need to take ten. Whew!
Completely exhausted, I sink onto the grass to recuperate. Eventually my breathing slows and I cease seeing spots. Instead the spots morph into bunnies. At the edge of each hedge, hand-sized furry brown Leporidae nibble and chew as eagerly as Homo Sapiens at a Soup Plantation.
As the sun sets atop Bunny Hill I realize it’s dinner time for one and all. “Can we get milkshakes at McDonalds?” one girl asks as we head home. I shake my head. “Nope. From now on we’re going to act like these bunnies. We’re going to nibble on carrots and leafy greens and then hop straight into bed.”
All three girls groan. “But milkshakes are better than carrots!” another whines. “And way better than green stuff!”
“Yes,” I nod. “But milkshakes lead you astray. They insert you into life and death games you don’t even realize you’re playing. Suddenly, with no warning, you’re walking around town like Miss California Super Fudge Chunk. And I don’t want any of you girls to end up Miss California, or a Super Fudge Chunk. I want you to be like the bunnies on Bunny Hill – constantly on the look-out for predators and eating from the Earth.”
The girls roll their eyes. At last Annalise perks up. “I know! We can get Shamrock Shakes. They’re a bit bad, but a bit good, too, because bunnies eat shamrocks!”
I admire this reasoning. She is right. Life is better when you can have it both ways – a bit bunny, a bit McFlurry. But one day you can’t. One day your score in medical terms is 40-Love and you are told the game might be over sooner than you think if you don’t get some fire in your belly and lob the ball back over the net.
And so, for today, I play. And I try to win. Because watching my girls skip down Bunny Hill against a back-drop of pink-tinged sunset is worth the effort.