Yesterday, I gave my whole body away. I just put it on display at Whole Foods Market with a notice, “Free. Take care of it. Not needed anymore. Superannuated.” The fat rolls, an inordinate amount of adipose tissue, dry, flaky skin on wrinkly elbows and knees with deep lines on forehead and corners of my eyes, had slowly populated my body.
Botox featured high on my “to-do-list.” It has been on my to-do list for over three years. However, I am a bit of a coward and lack the courage to subject myself willingly, to be skewered with toxins in my forehead and laughing wrinkles. Consequently, the avoidance of doing the Botox deed meant that when I laugh or smile, and of late, even when I do not laugh, my forehead and crow’s feet transform themselves into a topographic map of the Grand Canyon. But this is not my greatest disquiet about my body – the unbridled growth of my fat cells, in particular around my abdomen and the blossoming of a second chin – is the reason I want to disencumber myself of my body.
The urge to get rid of my body struck me as I sat at the Whole Foods coffee shop drinking my sugarless, fair trade coffee silently surveying my high protein snacks… Half an avocado sprinkled with pepper, minus the salt, a slice of vegetable quiche, and a small whole-wheat roll. Minus the butter.
Admittedly, it is not my first try to start the day well intentioned. I have sampled all kinds of dieting plans in existence on this earth over the last twenty-three years. Cabbage soup diet? Check! High fat, low protein, zero carbs diet? Check! Low carbs, high protein, low fat? Check! Restricted calories? Check! Low carbs, high fat, low protein? Check! I have joined Weight Watchers, Madam Monsieur, Lady Sun, Weigh-Less. Check and check! And many, many more. You can mention a diet, and I promptly cry out, “Check!”
And let me not forget to mention that I was the slavish follower of the low-fat diet craze. When I spotted the magic words, low-fat, I would zap it, and feel chuffed with myself for being such a health conscious person. Fortunately, for me, some of the decadent sweets also had that magic words inscribe on its beautiful wrappers. Now after twenty years of being a low-fat slave, the diet gurus are now having a turnaround and wrote to me. They said, “Dear Rosieda, we omitted to tell you. Please check the sugar content of the low-fat products because, in an attempt to make the low-fat food super yummy, unmentionable amounts of sugar was poured into it.” Now the new diet war cry is, “It is not fat that makes you fat, it is sugar that makes you super-fat.” I could have told them that. I now have the urge to throw the diet gods with all the low-fat products I consumed!
Let me tell the whole truth and not get you sidetrack about my low-fat saga. What usually happens is, that after meticulously following my diet plan – no-fat, low-fat or all-the-fat in the world – and whipping myself into subservience to my diet plan, I become exhausted. Every meal, every piece of food, I have to arm wrestle my taste buds. And these damn taste buds of mine, do not kowtow to any dieting tools.
I have named my taste buds, “She who Runs with the Wolves,” as she has a mind of her own. Often when she is in a rebelling mood she merrily chows down chips, Almond Joy chocolates, the one with the almond nestled under a blanket of moist coconut, and she always entices me to buy the highest calorie beverage on the Starbucks menu. My taste buds say by their own volition, “With cream, please”. What is that all about? Without cream could save me from consuming probably another 100 calories. I can see a research project in the making, “Why does Rosieda’s taste buds always say, ‘With cream, please,’ when her mind and her waistline shrieks, ‘No cream, no thank you!’”
Twenty-three years is a long time to struggle with your weight. Twenty-three years a slave to my taste buds. My first-born child is twenty-four years old, and so I cannot even blame it on post-pregnancy weight gain. Although, I sometimes sneak in this “fact” when people chat about diets, health and getting thin. I inform them that I only became fat after my first pregnancy – before that, I was gloriously slim. I then cross my fingers and do a silent pray hoping that the listener would not be the prying kind and ask me when I gave birth to my first child. A white lie squeezed in, so no judgment is delivered about my willpower or lack thereof.
Newsflash, to those thin judgmental people out there, it has nothing to do with willpower.
In my days of being thin, many eons ago, that was my attitude as well. Can they just not eat less and exercise more?
The latest research on fat or the proper term they use these days, obesity, has nothing to do with willpower. I could have told the researchers this a long time ago. Apparently it is an addiction to certain foods, in particular, carbohydrates also known as sugar. When you eat sugar, dopamine is sent to the reward center of one’s brain, called the nucleus accumbens. The way I understand it is that Mr. Dopamine is the neurohormone behind all our most sinful behaviors and when you eat sugar it lights up the nucleus accumbens like a Christmas tree. My nucleus accumbens, when I give it a jolt of sugar, does not only light up but goes further and sings a rousing chorus of, “Hallelujah!”
As I sat at Whole Foods Market cafe, I carefully chewed my selected array of healthy foods. Abiding by the weight-loss rule of eating slowly and chewing every mouthful of food about thirty times before swallowing it. But my taste buds relentlessly remind me of the delicious cinnamon swirl bun I surveyed at the bakery counter but had to shut my eyes as not to get tempted. Confession time. Earlier, when I was at the bakery counter, I tentatively stretched out my hand to acquire the bun. However, better diet judgment prevailed. Instead, my rational brain moved my hand away from the temptation and forced it to snap up the small low-carb roll, which would go well with the avocado and quiche.
As I chewed my high protein breakfast, my cravings somewhat acquiesced. Just when I triumphantly thought I had it under control, a coup of my self-will was masterminded and in a silent revolt forced my feet to walk back to the bakery counter. The path to the bakery counter was lit up in neon orange flashing arrows, welcoming me. My son, a big fan of the Walking Dead, would have been most impressed with his Mom as I shuffled to the bakery counter like a zombie. The cinnamon bun melted in my mouth.
It was after eating that forbidden pastry that I decided to get rid of my body there and then at Whole Foods. In the event there were no takers for my body, I would add a more enticing description: “When you cut open this cadaver, beneath the comforting layers of fat cells covering this heart, stomach, and lungs, nestles a beautiful mind, a 100% organic heart and 100% ill-disciplined taste buds.” I will add the term organic, even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture has not certified it as yet. I know they will agree if I flash my scouts honor sign in their direction and say, “I swear it is organic.” I also know Whole Food shoppers just go gaga when they see the words organic, hand-cut and fresh, so to make the deal sweeter, I will have to add these words.
For good measure, I will supply extra facts targeted to those Whole Foods shoppers kitted out in clogs and enrobed in a 100% organic hemp blouse and matched by their 100% pissed-off attitude because apparently you are blocking their path as they, armed with a few interrogating questions about a product, make a beeline for the Whole Foods worker. “What is the duration of it being harvested and being on display in this shop?” they demand. The hapless worker, cornered between the pineapple stand and hyper-health-conscious shopper’s cart, thinks quickly, “Oh, about one week,” she replies, with a bright fake smile, hoping the righteous shopper will move on and allow her to get done with her master project. She is hard at work forming a pineapple pyramid by stacking one pineapple on top of the other while she is worrying how she is going to make ends meet at the end of this month.
For those kinds of shoppers, and to ensure the Whole Foods worker does not have to concoct stories about me, I will also add: “Owner gave up. She wants to trade this body for one that makes a thin silhouette. The splattered inkblot shadow that currently trails behind her unhinges her. Her mirror does not caress her anymore. It mockingly colors in her stretch marks on her stomach with silver glitter, and it emphasizes the dimples on her thighs instead of the ones on her cheeks. Sweet, juicy, vintage and organic.”
As I sat upright on the Whole Foods display, squeezed between the Californian oranges and Driscoll’s organic strawberries, with my vibrant red bow atop my pepper gray hair a beautiful, slender woman, with a pink butterfly print scarf elegantly tied around her head, where her hair used to be, strolled passed. She reversed her shopping cart. She cast her eyes over me, and in the same way that I would prod an avocado to assess its ripeness, she squeezed my skin, pressed her fingers in my sinews and a smile lit up her face. “What I would give to have such healthy cells,” she said. “Mine are filled with pernicious cancer cells.” Her soft, clammy hands gently caressed my fat rolls. Massaged my hearty gut. Stroked my wrinkles.
She lifts my body up gingerly and then unceremoniously dumps me into her cart. I find myself squeezed in between organic mulch, gardening tools, and organic heirloom tomato seedlings. “This would make good compost for growing my organic tomatoes,” she whispers to herself. I protest, “Put me down! I made a mistake. I promise to control my taste buds. She will not run with the wolves anymore…”
Rosieda Shabodien seamlessly traverses her multiple identities: black, woman, African and Muslim; seasoned gender and political activist, emerging writer, wife, and mother; global South African, sojourning in the USA. She, with humor and self-deprecating wit, incisively explores the challenging issues of the day: gender, race and all bigotry; how obtuse people are mainstreamed; and her own Herculean struggle to shed surplus body weight.
Photo Credit: Kat Northern Lights Man