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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

Ballad of the Shape of Things

May 15, 2002

Have you seen the new Swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated? Naw, I haven't either. I probably walk by it ever day at work but I avert my eyes as I go by that section so I won't have to look at those scantily clad young ladies with all their pretty little assets hanging out. Not that I have anything against nudity, the good Lord knows, if I had an admirable asset or two myself, they would be out there and flapping in the fresh air with the best of them. Unfortunately, I don't. And looking at pictures of those who do just makes me feel like such a failure. A chubby failure. And sends me once again on a quest for a slimmer, trimmer version of my present self.

You are what you eat. Someone said that. No, I don't know who but it must have been someone with a lot of credentials because you hear it all the time. And if it's true, do you have any idea what I am? Most days, I'm a bowl of diet yogurt with fat free granola. A lettuce salad with a sprinkling of lemon juice and poached egg on the side. Three carrot sticks and half an apple. Of course, then, after Phil goes to bed and I'm left alone with the TV and the fridge, I turn into half a jar of peanut butter and the last of the tuna casserole. And of course, that sort of defeats the spirit of the whole thing. But what does one do, after all?

You see, one of the unforeseen problems arising from a fairly restrictive diet, is the increasing restlessness inside the fridge. The thing is, wives and mothers are programmed to deal with the sad remains of any given meal. Really. It's right there in black and white in the old marriage contract - "…to love, honour, obey, and eat the leftovers." And when something like a diet comes along to disturb the balance, it becomes a dilemma for all concerned.

G is for the good things left from dinner
A is for the apple crisp gone dry
R is for the cold mashed rutabagas
B is for the beef that getting high.
A is for the awful, ancient grayling
G is for the grape juice, thick as gum
E is for the eggs that smell like sulfur

Added up, they spell trouble for the tum.

Ever since embarking on my latest diet, I am still loving and honouring and so on, but from here on in, the leftovers are on their own and it seems to me, they are taking advantage of the situation. Phil opened the fridge door last night saying, "I'm hungry, is there any cheese?" and from somewhere in the back came a small voice, "You know cheese gives you heartburn…better have some of that Jello with the fruit in it…"

Of course, we all know that the quest for a taut, well-tuned body would be pointless if it was not accompanied by a bid of judicious moving and shaking. And friends, you have to know that I have moved and shaken to the best of my ability. My closet is full of pulleys and cables, chrome bars, and a small rolling platform that died the instant I risked my full weight upon it. Somewhere, under the bed in the guest room or perhaps under a stack of 2x4's in the back forty, there's a rowing machine with hardly any miles on it. A lonely treadmill sulks reproachfully in the backroom and keeping it company is a red-and-grey Abdominizer that has been featured in every garage sale in the neighbourhood. I even bought a minitramp, once. A minitramp…you know…a little trampoline.

I seem to remember that it was a lot of fun, in fact, I remember reading that right in the instruction manual: "Exercising each day on the mini-trampoline jogging mat will aid in developing reasonable lung capacity and stamina and it's fun, easy, and exciting." Well sir, it was exciting alright, no doubt about that, and easy, yes, that too. But as for the benefits, well, they were a tad less discernable.

The thing is, there you are, bouncing and jiggling your various pockets and pillows of extra poundage up and down and round about and let me tell you, when you get that much adipose tissue in locomotion, you could quite conceivably end up with herniated saddlebags, or worse, striation of your rosy red kneecaps! And I haven't even begun talking about the bazooms which have gone from a fairly shapely 42C to a 48 Long and looking more and more like candidates for a full-colour photograph in National Geographic.

Not only are they taking on a decidedly undesirable contour but you have to realize that once you get one of those babies in full revolution, you're going to be spending a lot of time bobbing and weaving. This undoubtedly adds to the exercise value but one day, one of them went zipping past my ear with such velocity that it swept me backwards off the 'tramp. As luck would have it, Phil just happened to be passing though and cushioned my fall so I wasn't seriously injured. He was fine, too, back on his feet after a day or so. But it was obvious to both of us that he was never again the man he used to be. Perhaps I should have offered him the use of the trampoline, you never know, it might have made a difference for him... heaven knows it didn't help me much. Nothing has.

And no one knows better than I the shame of the way I've let myself go. Well, not exactly let myself go so much as just turning around once day and finding that I'd left without me. And it IS a shame, alright, because I miss that little waist, the round little derriere, the perky…oh, for heaven's sake! THAT wasn't me, that was my sister! One would think that there must surely have been a younger, sleeker me to mourn, but truth to tell, I was well on my way to being let go before I'd even go nicely started: nine pounds of bouncing baby girl and never looked back! Oh, that's not to say I just sat there and let it all happen. Oh dear, no!

I fought the good fight, on all fronts (and sides and backs and bottoms,) winning the battles but always realizing that the outcome of the war was never in doubt. And as I soldiered gamely on, there was no end to the good advice from friends and family, all of them foursquare behind me as they urged me time and again to "…do something with your weight, dear. All it takes is a little will power…" And I'd think, yeah? Do something like what? Cut off my hand as it reaches for yet another butter tart? Staple my lips together before I can slip that chocolate truffle into the bottomless pit? Put acid in the Murine so I won't see the tantalizing TV ads that put my pilot on automatic and start me towards the kitchen 15 minutes after the supper dishes have been done? Will power, you say? Won't power would be more like it. But 'will' or 'won't', I don't think I've got some. Too bad they can't dispense it, like headache pills from behind the counter at Shoppers. "Yes, please, could I have a bottle of Mother MacCorkindale's Will Power. Large size. And oh yes, extra strength, if you please."

I wonder what the people at the Canadian Consumer lab would have to say about Mother Mac's Dieter 's Friend? Probably nothing. It's very strange, you know, but almost invariably, when I seek reassurance from their magazine, I find that my appliance or product is either not on their list, or is so far down in the ratings that I have to wonder why no one paid me to buy it. It does terrible things to a girl to find that her favourite brand of peanut butter won the C.C.'s Cup-Grease award four years running. Or that her deodorant was found to be ineffective after one onion sandwich and two polkas; sooner, if the sandwich was washed down with a cool draught of Old Sweatsock Pilsner. If, indeed, Consumer's ever got around to testing the Will Power, I'd very likely find that the only brand available to Yukoners would bear the warning: Not recommended. May cause Anorexia Nervosa.

Ah well, life is full of little disappointments and if there is one thing I've learned as I begin to pick up speed on life's gentle little downhill slope, it's that size is only a number, fat is only a word, and if the good Lord had wanted me to have my picture on the cover of the Swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated, he wouldn't have given the world whipping cream!

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