In Zombie Land

So I’m at the gym, and I’m not feeling very good about myself. Although I went to Portland and participated in the Shamrock Run this weekend, any health benefits that may have accrued me were pretty much ruined by the delicious brunch, and artisan pizza, and gourmet ice cream that I followed it up with. Now it’s Monday, and I’m trying to atone for my sins.

At the gym are these two girls. They are at least 10 years younger than I am. They are extremely slender. They are wearing cute work-out clothes. I feel self-conscious just being near them, and I curse my weekend meal choices once again.

But it’s a small gym, so I have no option other than being next to them, and as I go through my exercise routine I cannot help but listen to their conversation. The brunette is giving the blonde fitness tips. Now she’s talking about the Hello Kitty watch she bought on Saturday and the shellac manicure she got on Sunday. Now they’re discussing how bad the powdered fitness supplement they both take tastes. And now, after a series of lunges, the brunette sits down on a bench and gives a huge sigh.

“Only six more days until I can have food again…I wonder if this not-eating thing is really healthy?”

Those ellipses, in case you were wondering, represent envy leaving my body.

I almost turned around and said something. Did that girl seriously just question whether starving herself for a week was healthy or not? But I didn’t say anything, because I don’t think she would have appreciated getting nutrition advice from the not-in-ideal-shape mom next to her. Also, I don’t think she really wonders whether what she’s doing is healthy or not.

Anyone with a brain knows that not eating for a week (while continuing to exercise vigorously) is the opposite of healthy. And if she doesn’t have a brain, then I should have been running for my life, because ambulatory humanoid creatures with no brains are generally known as zombies, and if that’s the case, then she probably wanted to eat mine.

I don’t think she was really “asking” her friend, either. I don’t think it was a question at all. I think it was a back-handed way of one-upping her in the who-can-be-the-skinniest competition they had going on.

But whatever was going on in those two skinny girls’ heads, it didn’t matter. I looked at my own body with renewed affection. Those extra pounds? I earned every single one of them. I earned them from long dinners with friends, and wine and laughter around the table. From making cookies with my daughters. From hot bacon and eggs and coffee, cooked just for me by my loving husband. Because food is not just food. Food is about companionship, and ritual, and sharing. And sipping on a powered substitute doesn’t cut it.

If giving up food–and all the richness of life that goes with it–is what it takes to look like those girls at the gym, then I’ll say no thank you.

And if you ever hear me wondering aloud whether or not starving myself is a good idea, turn around and run. It means the zombies have got me.


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