The Mirror Doesn’t Lie

The Mirror Doesn’t Lie

From Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul

The Mirror Doesn’t Lie

Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day.

William James

I was in the mall the other day, rushing to get errands done and pausing just for a second to shift packages from one arm to the other. For a fleeting moment, I got that feeling women are apt to get—a sense of being stared at, that a set of discerning eyes was looking and passing judgment. I shrugged the feeling off and continued on my way. When you’re fifty-something and have looked fairly dowdy most of your adult life—not just in an encroaching golden age—you get used to the looks, or lack of them. When you’re carrying more than a few extra pounds, you can find yourself teetering on a tightrope between people staring or drowning in a sea of invisibility.

Strangers pass judgmentwhen you’re obese. Itmay be as overt as a pointed finger or thoughtless laugh, or as subtle as pretending you don’t exist. I remembered back. . . .

“Is there something I can help you with, ma’am?” There certainly was. The clerk was my age, a handsome man with wavy black hair and solid, angular features. I’d been patiently trying to get his attention for some help with a wallet I was selecting for a Christmas present.

It was near dinnertime, and the shop was pleasantly near-empty. The only shoppers were me: short, solid and rather hefty; and a girl my age then—perhaps twenty— with perfect flowing hair, perfect hands, chiseled legs and a body with the flesh secured firmly to the bone. She was lovely, and the clerk was smitten.

For what seemed like forever, I thumbed through wallets—now and then lifting my head with a smile, trying to make eye contact, to get his attention. It wasn’t happening. Only when the “normal” girl was gone did he realize I needed his help.

And then he called me “ma’am.” It was the first time that ever happened to me. When I left the shop and got to the safe place inside my car, where the windows steamed in the winter night, hot, embarrassed tears stung my cheeks.

And yet I did nothing about it. Except to maybe eat some more and gain an increasing amount of weight.

Decades passed, and layers and layers of fat enfolded me. I was far beyond even “ma’am” now. I was nearly asexual. I made fewer and fewer trips to shops—to public places in general. I was no longer hefty. I was huge. Walking around the block caught me out of breath and sent my knees into agonizing aches and spasms.

I knew if it kept on, I was going to die. A real, tangible, physical death. For a while, even with that reality in place, I shrugged off my destiny. It had been years since I looked into a mirror. People had stopped looking at me years ago, and I’d given it up for myself as well.

It was a dark, dark place.

I know exactly when the light came on. It was about a year ago, when sleeping at night was now no longer an option. Every time I lay down, it was difficult to breathe. Day and night, I walked the floors, exhausted, and now, finally, thoroughly afraid.

And then, it happened. In one on-a-whim, entirely outof-character moment, I ventured out into a public place for the first time in a very long time—to the animal shelter. That’s where Max found me. He was so very small for a shepherd/golden mix, and so very sick. I saw his face and forgot about my knees.

Max had no time for excuses. He needed medication every few hours, and because of the medicine, he needed more walks than a “normal” puppy. Because he also came with allergies, he needed to eat natural and healthy food And so, on another fine day, I found myself in the produce department instead of the ice cream aisle.

He grew strong and began to thrive, and so did I. More than a year passed, and I was down ten sizes. Max was home, I was sure, comfortably snoozing on the couch where he wasn’t supposed to be, and I was at the mall, running errands and thinking about my past.

The shopping bags needed to be shifted, and again I stopped. Once more I felt the sensation that a pair of eyes was watching. This time, I held my head up and looked back.

What I saw jolted me. It was a woman, just about my age, short but easy on the eye, tanned and fit. I smiled, and she was smiling back.

I had stopped in front of a full-length mirror.

These days, the anguish is gone, along with the self-loathing and embarrassment, and I no longer fear my own reflection. Max has no problem looking into my eyes. Why, then, should I?

Candy Killion

Ricotta-Stuffed Bell Peppers

MAKES 4 SERVINGS EACH SERVING: 24 GRAMS PROTEIN, 11 GRAMS CARBOHYDRATE

4 bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise

1½ pounds whole ricotta cheese

2 eggs

½ cup chopped Kalamata olives

1 cup chopped raw walnuts

½ cup minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons slivered fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

freshly ground black pepper to taste

⅔ cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°. Cut bell peppers in half and remove seeds. In a large skillet, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add bell peppers, reduce heat to low and simmer until just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from pan, drain and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, eggs, olives, walnuts, parsley, basil, lemon zest and black pepper. Mix well with a fork. Mound into pepper halves. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place in an ovenproof baking dish and add water to 1.4-inch depth in pan to prevent burning. Bake until heated through, about 20 to 30 minutes. Place under broiler briefly to brown top.

Reprinted from The Schwarzbein Principle Cookbook. ©1999 Diana Schwarzbein, M.D., Nancy Deville and Evelyn Jacob.
Health Communications, Inc.

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