Writing and Weight
Joyce McDonald Hoskins
Two of my life goals have always been to write, and to be thin. The second goal was not difficult early in life as it came natural through my teens, twenties, and thirties. Even after having two babies I only had to diet occasionally to take off five or ten unwanted pounds. My forties were a little more difficult and it became ten or fifteen pounds I needed to take off with the latest spring diet. My fifties became even more challenging as it became twenty unwanted stubborn pounds that I lost and gained numerous times.
The writing was put on hold as I dealt with raising children, caring for aging parents, and finally with the revolving door generation who returned and returned. But at last, my day came. After years of saying "that would be a good book" I booted up my computer and started writing. Having a vivid imagination similar to Snoopy’s, I sat down as if I were a well-known writer with an agent, a publisher, a deadline and fans breathlessly waiting. I smiled and typed, It was a dark and stormy night . . . Next I sat up straight, assumed a serious expression and hit the back key.
I started a mystery novel. My computer became my friend, but also my enemy. After getting a scene down right, it seemed natural to take a break and walk to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, or better yet, a caffe latte. Well-known writers have good taste, and real cream made the latte even better. Surely a genteel writer would enjoy an afternoon tea with a buttered scone. A tray with a pretty tea towel, and china teapot carried to the computer room would be delightful. One lump or two? Oh, I’ll have two, thank you. More tea? Another scone? Yes, that would be lovely. I had worked hard. I deserved it. Soon my cupboard was as well stocked with tea delicacies as the one in Daphne Du Maurier’s Mandalay.
With characters living in my head, I found coping with real life a bit difficult. Keeping my everyday life and my fictional life separate was challenging. My office would become a mess and I would constantly be hunting for misplaced items. I lose everything but weight, I would mutter as I looked for my misplaced notes.
Soon I had a completed novel and was an unknown fat author. I got up the nerve to get on the scales and went into shock when I saw the usual weight gain was topped by eighteen additional pounds. I almost cried as I wondered if Agatha Christie and Daphne Du Maurier ever had this problem. I knew of a couple of modern writers who did, but that didn’t make me feel better. If writing had done this to me, what would the stress of proofreading and editing do? Not to mention actually sending my work off for potential rejection.
I must take action. I must take action, now, I thought as I struggled into a pair of shorts with elastic around the waist. I took the dog for a walk. The year before I could walk four miles without working up a sweat. Now, I found I was tired and out of breath after a few blocks. This is not good, not good at all, ran though my head as I walked.
Bright and early the next morning I looked at my watch as I went out the door. Ten minutes out and ten minutes back would make a good start. Walking and pondering I made decisions. This time it wouldn’t be about my weight. It would be about my health. No diet plans taken out of a magazine with chocolate cake on one page and the latest diet on the next would grace the door to my refrigerator. If I concentrated on my health, the weight would take care of itself.
I increased the walk a little at a time and was amazed at how fast I was back to four miles. Fruits and raw vegetables replaced scones. Herbal teas and water helped reduced the coffee to one cup a day. An occasional teaspoon of honey replaced the sugar. One treat a week, walking, taking small exercise breaks instead of coffee breaks, and soon I had lost 28 pounds. I’m not as thin as I was in my twenties, but I won’t look too shabby when I do a book signing.