“Two Inches Down” by Renee Hughes



Added years have delivered abundant blessings to me including an ample derriere. Nuts derail my dieting efforts—not the loony human kind of nuts, though they contribute to stress-induced overeating. Tree nuts are the real problem, in particular pistachios, pecans and cocoa almonds. Yes, there are trees in some heavenly locale producing almonds dusted with cocoa.

My determination to drop poundage seven years ago started like other efforts—exercise more and eat better. I read up on tips, deciding this time I was ready because I had to be. After five decades of skating by, the doctor informed me at a physical my blood pressure was too high. The choices were obvious: drop the numbers or be on medication forever. The prospect of permanent meds alarmed me enough to take action.

The physician prescribed a low sodium diet so most meals lacked appeal. Desperate, I pondered the potentially preferable flavor of the packaging over its bland contents. The deficiency in taste of available food choices made it easier to consume fewer calories. My main diet of fresh veggies and fruit has been tagged a rabbit food diet, an erroneous description. We own a pet bunny and he is as hooked on the peanuts in his chow as I am on tree nuts. Having passed the fluffy stage, he is firmly in roly-poly territory.

One article I read insisted for a middle-aged woman to lose pounds and keep them off, she needed to lift weights. With an already existing personal gym in our basement, I developed a weight-lifting routine constructed from various books and magazines, alternating with treadmill walks. Early on lifting the lightest sissy weights we owned left me sore for days. Pilates relieved stiffness and gave me the core strength I needed to eliminate chronic back pain.

I was reluctant to get on our home scale since I feared my efforts were insufficient. At weigh in at the doctor’s office I put one foot on the scale and then the other with obvious trepidation. The nurse rammed the scale’s pointer to the right so fast I held my breath; I was afraid she might pass over where the pointer stopped the previous month.

The results? I dropped five pounds in four weeks and lowered the blood pressure reading measurably. “Well done!” the physician said as he scrolled down the computer screen. “Keep this up and you’ll be a youngster before you know it.” Once again I avoided the medicine. Over time the low salt diet and weight-lifting schedule shifted the scale’s pointer steadily to the left. Three years later and 25 pounds lighter, I struggled to keep losing but my weight hit a plateau.

Another four years passed and I am stuck at the same weight. The gynecologist chimed in when I admitted my penchant for snacking on nuts hijacked my weight loss regimen. Nuts are supposed to be good for me, right? The size-two doctor glared at me and said, “You may still consume nuts—but only three at a time.” To emphasize the quantity she held up three fingers and waved them in front of my face, “Three!”

What she did not explain was how often I might dine on three nuts or what the combination of the three nuts ought to be. Were they three pistachios and/or three pecans and/or three almonds, which on the outside added up to nine nuts, or was I limited to a combination of only three nuts? My conservative accounting nature assumed the worst—just three in total. As to the intended intervals at which I could eat that quantity, though, surely she meant more than once a day. I opened and closed one bag of pecans so much the double-tracked zipper closure failed in surrender. I burned extra calories retrieving and opening/closing bags of nuts.

The last time I returned to the doctor for a physical I still weighed the same. However, this trip my height measurement changed—I was only five feet, three inches tall. I knew I was not getting taller after my mid-teens so I normally ignored the height number, but how did I shrink?

There had to be a mistake—I was five feet, five inches tall for four decades. When I wondered aloud at the loss of height, the doc said, “This is common as we age.” How dare he repeat a phrase comparable to the one the optometrist uttered while writing the script for my first pair of bifocals? I suspect the physician conspired with the allergist because the latter said something similar when I suffered rashes from consuming certain foods and medicines that had not bothered me before, “Our bodies change as we get older.” The truth is the miles on the personal odometer were catching up with me. My brain was not the only feature getting closer to the ground—a few other parts lost the gravity battle years ago.

The general practitioner looked at my bone density report, assuring me my backbone was fine. The disks between my vertebrae were the culprits. Whether lifting weights compressed the disks in my back or I had been getting shorter for years and did not comprehend it, I shrunk. The good news is I did not gain weight and blood test results approached perfection. Of course the charts dictated I should weigh less because of the two-inch disk collapse, but I still dodged the meds bullet.

After my latest checkup I decided to reward myself with a few new tops. The shedding of 25 pounds provided me improved clothing options in more stores. I found three shirts at my favorite boutique and requested a clerk unlock a dressing room. Two fit well other than they went past my hips just shy mid-thigh. While wearing one of the tops I cracked the door open and called to the assistant. She came over and complimented me on the shirt.

I said, “Yes, it fits fine but seems a little long. Is this the new style for a blouse to hang down so far?”

She looked at the top and said, “Hmmm,” squinting, her mouth skewed to one side, searching for a suitable response to give me.

“I have lost two inches, though, and maybe that is causing the length issue. What do you think?” I inquired.

“Congratulations!” she replied, her face lighting up with a genuine smile. “Wow! How marvelous for you to lose two inches. You should be so proud of yourself—no wonder you are shopping.” The sincere praise she offered inclined me to keep my thoughts to myself, but never one to avoid an opportunity to comment, I decided to remedy the confusion.

“Oh no, not two inches around, my dear. I lost two inches in height,” I said, correcting her misconception.

She stared at me, her eyes wide and mouthed, “Oh,” her vocal inflection rising. With a jerky motion she stepped back from me as though avoiding a strange contagion. Perhaps I should have kept quiet—likely the reality of the adage “we are what we eat” impacted my judgment.

“It happens to everybody eventually the doctor said. We all become more vertically space efficient,” I commented, attempting to allay any concerns. Now that I contemplate that statement, I probably alarmed her more based on her bewildered expression. The twenty-something clerk managed a weak smile and nodded slowly, relieved when another customer interrupted her geriatric education.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s