Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Friend Em

The Sunday after we had the kids for the weekend, I went to brunch with a friend.  My friend Em.  We are the unlikeliest of friends: a 31 year old single "young" woman and a 51 year "old" woman (old enough to be her mother).

I  met Em online back in 2007 while part of a Biggest Loser Team on Sparkpeople.  After the teams were established and the message boards were set up for chatting, we discovered that 3 of us lived in or had connections to Connecticut. Two of us living here full time and the other living in St. Croix but with family here so she comes quite often.

Additionally, all three of us CT girls were runners.  The other two were beginning runners and often contacted me for running advice.  I'm no running guru. Believe me, I'm just an old, chubby, and slow but extremely determined runner. Which I guess came through in my posts because it wasn't long before the whole team was calling me Crazy Running Woman.

Eventually, we got to meet in person - at first one at a time but ultimately the three of us would try to get together if we were all in the state at the same time. 

As I said, you would think Em and I would be unlikely friends,but need of weight loss and love of running overtook the age difference and anything else that might have hindered us, and our friendship has slowly developed over these years. We have supported each other at races, run races together, and also taken a weekend trip to Boston with other members of that now defunct group.  Which goes to show you that virtual friends can indeed become in real life friends too!  Two years ago, when Gary died, even though she lives over an hour away, she came to the calling hours.  I'm not sure I've ever told her exactly how much that meant to me.  But I digress.

Here's the group who went to Boston together, Em is second from the right.

Em taking me to brunch is something she has insisted on doing for the past few years somewhere around my birthday.  (Her parents live about 20 minutes away from me so she just makes a day of it and visits them after we get together. ) Even though the time never seems long enough we always manage to cram a lot of conversation into the couple of hours we are together. 

This time, after catching up on important stuff like boyfriends and husbands and houses and gardening, we inevitably started talking about our weight.  Both of us have gained back quite of bit of that weight we'd lost 4 years ago and both of us are suffering for it.  By suffering I mean, paying the consequences:  everything physical activity is harder, your cute clothes are packed away, stomach rolls and cellulite have made a reappearance.

As faithful readers know, I struggle with a wack job thyroid.  (The rest of my issues would come from wack job choices.) For Em, it's a busy, busy career as a fairly new litigation lawyer.  She basically works 6 days a week and probably puts in 80+ hours.  As you can imagine, it makes it extremely difficult to have much "life" outside of a job like that.  Everything is hard: meal planning, meal prepping, exercise, and even as she put it, "I'd like to clean my own house instead of paying someone to do it!"  (Well maybe not literally, but you get the idea of that thought.)

Yet, there we sat, our ages two decards apart, both pondering the same end result of circumstances in our lives.  I'll tell you what's universal:  when a woman gains weight she doesn't want, her thoughts WILL go to trying something drastic to get it off.  On the other hand we both know that while a liquid diet or extreme drop in calories 'might' take a few pounds off quickly, that's not something either of us could live with.  What we are both searching for, literally, is balance.  In terms of eating, we both admitted there are times when we could just flat out make better choices, yet we also acknowledged that it seems so much easier to fall back into old habits.   So just how does one get there?  To develop a new process that actually becomes a habit to reach for the apple instead of the chocolate, to choose the baked potato over the fried.  Not that chocolate and french fries are bad; they just probably shouldn't be the choice all the time.  Again, the key here being balance.

I shared with her that I recently had a conversation with another online friend who is a personal trainer who takes part in a running message board I participate in.  I was complaining about my lack of progress with getting some poundage off and how it affects my running and the trainer said, "Helen - don't beat yourself up, I have a client with thyroid issues... and she has the worst time losing weight, I see how hard she works and what she eats and it's just an uphill battle for her. The sad thing is, if she slips even a little on the working out/eating, she gains. So keep doing what you are doing!"

I'd been on thinking on that all week because as Em and I talked, I admitted I do not want to live a life of restriction. It makes me angry that if I waiver even a tiny bit from food or exercise my thyroid says, "Here's an extra 6 pounds for you!" It makes me frustrated that I can't 'be' like other people.  I want dessert.  I want a Saturday night martini.  I want a cheeseburger. BUT -  I also want whole grains and fruits and vegetables.  I want to to sleep in and I want to get up and exercise. I want variety and I want balance.

Guess what?  So does Em.

And so, as we sat talking about our hopes and dreams, we both agreed.  Life is way too short to not be at peace about food and exercise.  That the key probably is just to acknowlege when better choices could have been made and then move on.  No wallowing, just steps taken to course correct.  The key being honesty about what you really want.  Honest enough to reflect and then keep on keeping on.

This is something I'm actively exploring these days and I'm sure I'll be sharing more about my discoveries in the future.  I especially want to share with Em.  Because I'd like her to be free of all this by the time she's 51.

Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow - that is patience.
 ~ Unknown ~


  1. Excellent Helen. You are blazing the trail. I'm thanking you from the foothills...<3

  2. Exactly - life IS too short. And more than anything, I hope that whatever *we* choose eat, it's with peace and enjoyment.

  3. I think finding peace with food and exercise is one of the hardest things I've ever attempted in my 55 years. I'm better now than ten or even five years ago, but I'm still a long way from being at peace. It's something I battle every single day, every minute of every day.

    When you figure out the secret, please let me know. Because after all the books I've read on this subject and all the articles, all the blogs, I still struggle with having peace with food.

    Maybe by the time I'm 60 I'll figure it out. Or sooner if you beat me to it and share! :)

  4. I'll have to tell Tony that online "friends" can in fact become in real life friends! :D

    I loved the honesty of this post Helen - and I am sure Em appreciates your wisdom!

  5. I think it's just the neatest thing that you and Em became friends in real life. :) I wish I could meet you too. Someday. Perhaps a race in the future? A girl can hope.

    My thyroid hates me too plus I have the added bonus of insulin issues. Even if I cut my calories and exercise my booty off I can actually *gain* weight. It sucks. I understand. Searching for that balance with you. It may be a lifelong search but as long as we're enjoying life as we go along I think we're doing pretty darn good.

    A martini toast: to balance!

  6. That is so cool that you have stayed friends with Em.

    Your post was a great reminder to me of what I know. I was just daydreaming about how I'd like to get back down to that lowest weight when I looked thin(ner). But your post reminded me that that is why I chose the higher weight to maintain. I think one key is learning to accept that higher weight (and the heavier me.)

    That said, I do have faith that if we keep practicing, some of those good food habits will become more and more automatic.

  7. Helen's friend Em here. You all should know that Helen is just as fabulous in person as she is online, and I am proud to call her my friend. I hope as many of you as possible have the opportunity to meet her.

  8. I think the peace comes when we value ourselves more for who we are on the inside than who we are from the outside. That our value is intrinsic and not performance based. We don't gain value because of what we do. We have value and worth because of who we are - our soul, our spirit, our heart, our goodness.

  9. "I do not want to live a life of restriction"

    That is no way to live, unless you are a buddhist monk.

  10. Really good post, Helen. As much as I know I'm a food addict (which I don't think you are) - I am in total agreement about life being too short and not wanting to have to assume a black and white stance on certain foods, etc. The idea of never being able to enjoy something because it "might" set me off is aversive to me. That said, the idea of "to thine own self be true" is extremely valuable.

    For a true addict, there may be certain foods that I won't ever be able to safely negoitiate. Being honest with myself about them will free me up to find balance in the rest. No category has to be off limits within my known parameters for self care.

  11. What a beautiful friendship you have Helen. I have online friends that are very supportive and quite possibly know me more intimately than some of my real world friends.

    All bodies are not created equal! I can look at junk food and gain 5 pounds, smell it and add 7 and eat it to gain 10 pounds!

    If you discover a secret to the mental part-share it pretty please!

  12. isn't it amazing the way we can connect with people now with all the technology available! thank you so much for posting this heart to heart conversation with your girl... it is so true - i think we all strive for balance! sometimes when i get down, that's exactly what i think about: WHY can't i just eat like a NORMAL person, not binge one day and starve the next, not work-out like a fiend for a week and then quit the next... great post!!

  13. How lucky you two are to have each other. I love stories of friendships that develop from out of the ordinary circumstances.
    I have hypothyroidism, Helen. I don't think I'm as sensitive but do understand the stalled effect of a sluggish thyroid. I'm an email away if you ever need to vent, Helen :)

  14. You are a wonderful role model Helen. I, too, treasure my online friendships, some of which have made the transition to face-to-face friendships...the internet certainly makes life richer!

  15. I love this as I can relate to lots and lots of it Helen.
    from the unlikely friendship to the 'resenting what we have to do to stay where we are' at times.

    it doesnt matter what the realm is--we all have scenarios where it just feels HARDER for us than others.

    beautiful writing...

  16. I love that purple dress you had on Helen! I totally agree with you about balance.

    It's great that you have a friend like that :)

  17. I love this post Helen! I have the same approach, life is indeed too short to think about food and exercise all the time. Life is also about enjoying and sometimes that means chocolate pie. As long as the choices are more often healthy than "bad" I think we're going to be okay.

    Having said that I am going to eat more healthy next week because lately my choices have been too much on the "bad" side of food and I feel it in my clothes.

    I also don't think friendship is tied to ages. I have to best friends. One is 2 years older than me, the other is 30 years old while I'm 42. I both love them very much and the 12 year difference with the younger one isn't there in our friendship.