The “No”


It’s the societal gift that keeps on giving: The broader the waistline, the heavier the burden of guilt you carry.

It’s almost impossible to avoid it. People who are overweight don’t just feel bad for how they look – they also feel huge guilt for how they DON’T look. And yes, those are two different things – because regret is bad, but shame is corrosive.

So once I make a plan to recapture my health, I must not only find the strength to change long-ingrained habits… I also have to overcome the shame and fear that I’ll screw this up AGAIN. Won’t keep up with it – won’t remember how long real change takes – won’t have the fortitude and sisu to keep going when the SIT DOWN gene proves dominant over the GET UP gene.

In the middle of this constant, epic warfare being waged deep in the lizard part of my brain, I came down with a cold.

No, it’s not the coronavirus. I ain’t afraid o’ no COVID-19! No, this was just a run-of-the-mill cold. Scratchy throat, low energy, a mighty freight of fluids where fluids should not be (my nose is raw from all the blowing and wiping).

Every single human in the world has worked through a cold. Most simply have no choice. You feel crappy, but the work has to get done. Yes, maybe you’ll infect co-workers and that’s a shame, but if the bills have to be paid, then you saddle up and stuff fistfuls of Kleenex in every pocket.

But not me. I’m fortunate enough to have retired. No nine-to-five for me. The only thing I had on my schedule for Monday… and Tuesday…. and Wednesday… were appointments with Barbara and Tracy and Chip and the geniuses at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA.

(Oh – and also a visit to the oral surgeon who put in one of my molar implants; he wants to conduct something called a “torque test” which involves him putting a tiny little screwdriver into my mouth – I envision one of those little hex wrenches from Ikea – to tug on the implant and see if he can shift it in the bone or not. That’s bizarre and kind of creepy and also very cool; I’m sort of longing to see what THAT feels like. If it doesn’t turn, it means my jaw bone has healed over the screw and it will be time to hang the fake molar on the screw, and YES PLEASE, I’m sick of having no good chewing grinders; there’s a second hole waiting for a screw on the other side of my mouth too, and can this parenthetical aside go on for any longer??)

I certainly don’t want to infect those healthy people. (Or the oral surgeon; probably not as robust with good health as the trainers at BDI – on the other hand, he’ll practically be inside my mouth and it just seems rude to open wide while I’m crawling with cold germs. I’ll reschedule that guy.)

It would be humiliating to be the reason that Barbara had a red nose and had to stall her Boston Marathon training. (Every day she goes out, in freezing rain or bitter cold, to race like a gazelle across the veldt before the sun comes up; her commitment is terrifying and makes me want to take a nap immediately on her behalf.)

And what if long, lean Chip was suddenly wracked by body-jarring sneezes? Could I demand that he continue to provide guidance to unfit people while he clutches a big cardigan miserably around his graceful body?


So the only smart thing to do is to cancel the appointments, stay home, sniff and whine in the emptiness of my house, infect no one else at all. Rest. Recuperate. Guestimate just how many boxes of Kleenex I can go through. (Spoiler alert: A lot.)

BUT EPIC WARFARE IS WAGING IN THE LIZARD BRAIN. By the rocket’s red glare, we see the Shame Army rallying on a distant hill – a bold flag-holder waving a banner and screaming ONWARD YOU BASTARDS!

If I don’t work out for an entire week, aren’t I liable to simply freeze into a recumbent posture and refuse to ever get up again?? How will I pry myself from the warm embryo of the sick room to venture forth into the icy blackness of the Real World? If I stop – will I be able to start again?? Shame is shrieking: You’re a loser! You always give up! That’s why you look the way you do!! WHY DID YOU THINK THIS TIME WOULD BE ANY DIFFERENT??

Good lord. Pass the Kleenex.

I’m trusting the habits I’ve built up over the past three and a half years. I know that Barbara is likely to come to my house and drag me out by my hair if I give up now.

So I’m going to give my body time to heal… and then I’ll be back at it. It takes great courage to say “yes” to things that scare or alarm you. Sometimes it takes even more guts to say “no.”

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I know it’s sexist to say it, but it’s been my experience that most men don’t agonize over every decision this way; it seems to be a predominantly female trait to imagine bloodthirsty warfare when wondering if you should cancel an appointment with the trainer or not. I wonder… it must be so PEACEFUL to be a guy.

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