If you are under 40 years old, you might avoid reading this post for your own sanity. Those of us who have reached our fifth decade have a few secrets about what happens as you age—and it’s not pleasant.
For me, 42 was the magic number. Forty-two, after my twins were born, was the year that my body rebelled. It’s been in a slight rebellion—a baby coup d’état of sorts—since I first gave birth 13 years ago. I’m all about post-baby body pride. Nothing compares to the miracle of growing a human. Nothing. Weight gain meant my child was growing and thriving. Eating provided the nourishment my tiny seed needed to grow into a chubby little watermelon. Weight had value, and my body knew just what to do with the calories I ingested. My hips spread, my breasts grew, and my belly flourished, with no direction from me. I was OK with the changes that were happening. My body took over and did its job. A son, a daughter, and twin boys were born healthy and happy.
At 40, however, I want to fire my body. Who the heck said it could stay in charge after it did its tour of pregnancy duty? I lovingly feed it all the right things and it refuses to bounce back to its earlier, sleeker versions. It feels a bit like jumping on a trampoline with no springs. The higher my goals, the harder the fall. Gallons of water a day. Boing. Splat. Low carbs. Boing. Splat. Plenty of green vegetables. Boing. Splat. My metabolism is broken. I’m not fat, but I’m not satisfied that this fifth decade version of my body is the right one. In fact, I’m convinced it’s not.
I have two specific complaints. Remember the “freshman 15”? Why am I, like so many others, stuck with the “post-baby 15”? I still have 15 lousy pounds that seem to be Gorilla Glued to my tummy and thighs. Even worse, why do my favorite foods now cause me so much distress?
I certainly didn’t ask to turn into the Stay Puft Marshmallow (Wo)man every time I eat gluten. It’s a real thing, y’all! That pre-dinner bread basket is like a belly bloat landmine. Sometimes knowing the risks, I feel the fear and eat the wheat bomb anyway. I should also say goodbye to cheese. Dairy is not my friend. Dairy and I were BFFs for years, but she’s turned on me too. Dairy is like a two-faced villain, teasing me with its velvety queso goodness, knowing that I’ll be up all night because I can no longer eat 600 tortilla chips with cheese and sleep soundly. In so many ways, I’ve become like a colicky, lactose intolerant infant without a mommy to feed me Gaviscon drops.
I’ve tried it all—dinosaur diets, caveman cuisine, keto, low carb, no carb, food combining, Plexus, Thrive, Beach Body, cleanses, shakes, magic potions—and my body persists to resist. Small droops and slight sags, tiny wrinkles and eye bags. Aging is not nearly as poetic as it sounds.
The weeks between Halloween and Christmas are particularly perilous. It is one wave after another of sugar and carbs crashing my digestive system. Somehow, I choose to carry on. I curse candy, give the stink eye to potatoes, and complain endlessly about cheese-and-cracker boards. I face holiday buffets of bloat on a weekly basis with courage, conviction, and a bottle of Pepto Bismol.
I long for my college days when I thrived on Cheetos and Diet Coke. I’ve come to the conclusion that eating in the afterlife might be my only hope. If—and it’s a big if—I’m blessed with a trip to the pearly gates I fully expect the divine arches to be made of donuts. Warm, glazed donuts, to be precise. Rivers of mashed potatoes and gravy will flow peacefully by bread boulders. Queso will stream from the fountains, and tiny storks will deliver me baskets of assorted chips for dipping. My celestial bed will be a vanilla birthday cake with a butter cream pillow. Captain Crunch and I will sail Kit Kat rafts on a chocolate lake filled with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup lily pads. Communion will be macaroons and piña coladas. If in the hereafter I’m faced with broccoli forests and kombacha rain storms, I just may opt out of immortality.
I know, I know—I’m being a little cheeky. Having eaten kale and quinoa and embraced coconut oil, I think I’ve earned the right to be a little bit sacrilegious. Won’t you join me in a bone broth toast to the afterlife?