Everything about summer supports my bodily ideal: the salads, the swimming, the sunlight. It’s easy to feel the “Whee!” when your spirit, calorie burn and healthy glow are free, free, free. I dive in, a middle-aged gymnastics coach counting my play days until September and falling, giddy and exhausted, into bed each night, windows open and alarm clock set.
And then it’s over, gone, both the season and the body reduced to a shiver, stilled by gray skies, oppressed under the blanket of seasonal fact. I’ll be honest: A tiny part of me welcomes the pause, the dawn-to-dusk debauchery having left me tired and hungry. Largely, though, I manage to cling to my summer me until November, when early darkness drives me toward a different light, one whose radiance is contained only by a door. Opening the refrigerator, I reach for comfort foods to assuage my discomfort with the calendar before crawling under the comforter, the fridge door open all this uncomfortable time, my weight shifting from foot to foot and season to season.
The light takes me to a dark place. I skip first one and then another workout, my cold-weather athletic wear still in storage, see, and my son needing help with algebra homework. (And we all know what a big help I am with algebra homework!) Day three’s dodge ensures that my return to the pool/road/class/weight room will hurt, the dread of which extends my rest and recovery “day,” singular, to four days.
My body genetically knows to add padding for protection against winter’s cold. The fall harvest is aptly timed so animals and humans can fatten up for winter. Early spring food stocks, after all, will be low when we lumber out of hibernation. So there! Winter weight gain isn’t my doing; it’s programmed into my being.
Trouble is, this anthropological cream pie exists only in my head and is whipped together independent of any proven science. Our ancestors didn’t have light bulbs to extend daytime. Their heat sources didn’t come with programmable thermostats. Bears can’t go to grocery stores, which are now stocked year-round with fresh and processed foods.
My case crumbling, I pull out the big guns: the Old Testament, whose Book of Ecclesiastes assures that “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Enough said?
Ah, but righteousness is a mental exercise. My body is still heavy and my spirit heavier still. Making healthy choices is a breeze in the summer, but he who’s doing the choosing remains the same. I’m the one making the choices that determine my weight, I mean, fate.
And so I hereby choose to honor the restorative gift that is winter; to rest well, eat wisely and read books by the fire. I WILL hit the gym daily.
And I did! I survived the winter. Bring on spring!