Thursday, 13 January 2022

A year in review: Health and wellbeing, part two

This memorial contains almost a month’s worth of parts – though not all of ‘em are about my health! – and the post you’re reading is the twentieth in the series. 

In the afternoon of 19 January the breeze shuddered and whined in the window frames but the curtains I’d chosen the year before didn’t tremble. I’d just sorted the in-tray which had emerged a few days earlier from a box, filing some things and putting other things aside to give to the estate agent who sold my old place so that he could pass them onto its new owner. Some things I shredded, and I plugged in the Kindle for the first time since July, at least. Who knows how long, by that time, it'd sat without charging. Not that I felt like reading. I was waiting for a few more pieces to materialise so that I could get ready to make art. A table. A bookcase. A bed. Some hooks for pictures and photos. A real-life game but one like Tetris, each block snapping into place when I cleared obstacles. 

A few rows to go before Nirvana or disaster. The wind wasn’t the only thing to tremble. My heart did, too. With anticipation. With anxiety. With longing for a past I never lived. Or else the whole house of cards would come crashing down to earth with me left holding a few stray jacks, a ten, and a four. Different suits, different colours. Nothing matching. What colours would I dream up once I started to draw? Black and white and shades of grey started in my mind each day at different moments of fragile repose. I would be good enough for some, but good enough for all? A charade is only ended with applause, and I’d heard little enough of that during my life. Would I ever have what I needed to be content? I had too much wisdom to be wise, and not enough courage to shine like a gem in a ray of sunshine. Clouds hung outside.

The temperature’d dropped with fallen day. Every time I got to the head of the stairs my phone would ping as an email arrived. Three times it’s happened like this. Get up from the desk. Go through the bedroom and past the bathroom, head across the studio and reach the top of the upper staircase. Then, “ping”! The tell-tale tone emerged from the box of plastic and metal and glass. It became, like weight-loss, a constant feature of my days. A reminder of time passing, of milestones abandoned in my reliable onward push. 

Down, down, mostly down …

The day before the above snapshot was taken on my phone I’d been to see Dr Nanda, who told me that only about 20 percent of patients he sees who start a restrictive diet are able to stick to it. We talked about the challenges and he mentioned exercise but I countered, saying that if you do it you normally eat more and then it can threaten the entire regime. On that day I was still over 98kg – I’d been sitting between 99 and 98 for over a week, so when the new result came up on 6 February there was relief. 
During an earlier consultation I’d said that the other GP – in the Botany clinic that is local to my residence – had suggested 83.5kg as a target weight. Dr Nanda countered by saying that if I reached 90 he’d be happy. 

I’d see about progress beyond that point when I reached a goal I’d individually set. It seemed like something out of a nightmare, thinking back to all those years of struggling to find clothes to fit, of staring exasperatedly into the bathroom mirror, and of gobbling down loads of food I didn’t need but craved because that’s the way I’d been brought up. Dad’d been very poor in his early years – both his parents worked, sometimes in such precarious sectors of the economy as gardening and seamstressing – so he’d a healthy appetite and in his 50s was a chubby hubby. Mum, also, generously proportioned, and she had a habit, at dinnertime, of scoffing down her food in a robust fashion prompting dad, when feeling impish, to poke fun at her. We boys – seated at either side of the dining table – would silently commiserate with mum on this account, while at the same time being relieved that dad’s attention wasn’t focused on either of us. 

His stare was withering. My memories are equally strong, however and, apparently, more enduring. As I’d done when I was very little, I was taking baby steps. This time I would achieve my goal – I hoped – since, my first time around, youthful wishes had met an obstruction in the form of dad’s decision to not allow me to give up studying French in year 11, when I was 17. It was probably 1978, but memory doesn’t always serve me faithfully for events at such a distance – though the fierce sensations that derive from it sit inside me terrible and grim as spirits unappeased.

Initially in 2021, at the beginning of October, I’d had 100kg in my sights. Now that I’d reached and passed that goal I’d decided to aim for 90kg. What would I do once I hit that mark? I doubted I’d be able to get by without each morning’s small affirmation as I read a new number on my bathroom scale. What would happen in the absence of this token of beneficence? Getting ready for bed, as I contemplated the scale’s readout just prior to stepping into the shower, I anticipated the sensation I’d have in the morning. (Subtract about a kilo to arrive at the next day’s reading.) I wondered how my mind would cope if I reached 90kg and this temporary support disappeared from my emotional life.

The second half of February the going was slow (see chart below). By this time I was on about a kilo lost every two weeks, whereas earlier in the year it’d been about a kilo lost per week. If the rate of loss slowed further, by October I might possibly, I mused sadly, be arriving at 90kg, giving me a result of 30kg lost, or equal to a quarter of my bodyweight in a year. 

In the event I reached this goal a lot earlier than I anticipated.

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