19 Weeks to go: Falling off the wagon and getting back on

Wednesday, 26 June: a day of indulgence

No exercise today and, boy, do I feel it. Husband, being disciplined and showing an impolite amount of Spartan determination, went off for an hour’s run this morning. I slept in a bit, thinking that I would take a rest day. But after last night’s pasta with creamy-something-or-another sauce (eurgh!), I could probably have done with some gruelling training. Instead, I had a rather grim hotel breakfast – cheap muesli with too-brightly-coloured-to-be-healthy yoghurt, Twinings Earl Grey tea so weak it was creamy white, and half a dense scone with butter and some strawberry jam. Last night’s supper sat solidly in my gut. I could feel it move about as I walked, like a loose canon rolling from side to side on a ship, but skipping breakfast is not a good idea, especially if you’re not at home and able to have some fruit or other healthy food when the hunger pangs and the need to rip other people’s heads off  kick in at about eleven o’clock.

The afternoon is spent wine tasting (well – what?! – we’re on holiday!) – Bonnievale and Ashton, with a stop at Van Loveren for lunch. I have half a margherita pizza with a drizzle of basil pesto and half a glass of their Christina Shiraz. That would quite comfortably have seen me through to tomorrow morning, but a friend wants to take us to dinner. Three restaurant meals in one day! My liver! I have only a bowl of butternut and ginger soup, which is delicious, but by the end of the day I feel as if I’m in a state of withdrawal … endorphin withdrawal! I need to work up a sweat, feel my muscles work and my body burn some fuel.

Tomorrow we head back to town, so there won’t be time for exercise in the morning. But the Promenade is calling my name. The bathroom scale, on the other hand, is cowering under the bathmat.

Thursday, 27 June: back on the road and feeling a bit existential

It’s amazing how some regular exercise and healthy living – more or less – can ruin a day or two’s indulgence for you. I felt bad enough yesterday, having skipped my walk. Today I feel at least 2 kg heavier, sluggish, and yuck. There is no time to walk this morning, because we have to pack, have breakfast, and do multiple under-the-bed, In-the-bathroom and in-the-drawers checks before we can get in the car and head home. Of course, after three days of dull weather, the sun came out this morning, and the water in the swimming pool is warm enough to bath in.

We stopped at the entrance to Montague, and climbed the five-minute route up to the Old Fort. I could feel how I had let things get out of hand and was almost tempted to walk the rest of the 180-or-so km home.

The Old English Fort, at the entrance to Montagu, the gateway to the Karoo

The Old English Fort, at the entrance to Montagu, the gateway to the Karoo

The tunnel below the Old English Fort

The tunnel below the Old English Fort

The road into Montagu, seen from the English Fort

The road into Montagu, seen from the English Fort

It’s always good to get back to Cape Town, though, and the city showed off for us. The storms have passed, the skies are clear and the sea is completely calm. It’s time to get those shoes on – it’s only 2:15 pm, and the idea was to walk this evening, but why wait? I’ll do just a 10 km walk to get back into the swing of things.

I get out there and it feels great. The Promenade is fairly empty, the light is beautiful, the sea air is crisp, and I feel strong. I’m glad to be moving.

My thoughts turn again to the point of all of this. I had tried on some bathing costumes this morning and, rather than feel grateful for a strong, healthy body that is in better shape than it was a mere few weeks ago, all I could see in the mirror was my thickened middle, the hail damage on my too-big thighs and my saggy bum. It’s pathetic to be concerned about all of this when there are people with real issues in this world. People who struggle with serious weight loss issues, people who are ill … all sorts of real problems. There are people who don’t have enough food to eat from one day to the next, and here I am being ungrateful and critical of what my body looks like not only because I have more than enough to eat, but also because I am healthy enough to have lived to this age and to have brought two children into this world.

But women – most women, not all – struggle to move beyond their physical appearance when they look at themselves. No matter what we have achieved in life, it all comes down to ‘does my bum look big in this?’. We really  need to get a grip. We are so much more than just our bodies.

So when is exercise about self-respect and not about narcissism? When is it about treating your body as a temple, and when is it about treating your body as a god? Should we even be considering our bodies in parts – circumference of waist, size of breasts and bottom, general saggyness of the latter? Should we not be viewing our bodies quite differently, maybe in a more functional way? It is there purely as a vehicle, after all, to get us from one place to the other, to enable us to work, produce children and survive? But I suppose it is for ornament as well. In order to procreate, we need to attract the opposite sex. Only when we are attractive to a member of the opposite sex do we find a partner. So, as animals, we are programmed to desire the best of the species and to want to be the best of the species.

The other bits, that stuff about personality, those come later. Anyone who has watched an episode of Dating in the Dark will know that in the end it comes down to looks. All that bonding in the dark, connecting with someone because of his or her personality, the soul mate stuff, all comes to naught when the lights are switched back on. And so, even though I am nowhere near interested in or capable of procreating, I still want to be attractive. It’s just the way it is. And in the absence of real problems (and I am very grateful for their absence), the size of my waist and the distance between the floor and my breasts will distract me from higher thoughts and more creative activities from time to time.

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