Coronavirus Calories

When it comes to diet and exercise, my motto is moderation. I don’t believe in extremes or in deprivation. Exceptions to this are fast food burgers, because God only knows where the meat comes from,  soda, never liked it, and anything labeled diet, sugar-free or low-calorie, all gimmicks in my view. Otherwise, I enjoy most foods and indulge in sweets a few times a week, because life is too short to go without chocolate.

My usual exercise routine includes power yoga, brisk walks, and twice weekly gym workouts. I never owned a scale until my mother bought me one two years ago. Though I think she really bought it for her. She’d just retired and moved to another state, and so started staying with us during holidays and visits. She’s always been scale-obsessed. I receive regular text updates whenever she gains or loses a pound, which means near-daily. I stopped telling her that it’s probably water weight.

Typically, I maintain a healthy weight for my 5’4″ frame, with one bout of weight gain several years ago when I was stressed from pursuing an advanced degree while working full-time. I worked hard to lose the 10 pounds by restricting calories for the first time in my life and ramping up exercise. It was torture, and I never wanted to do that again.

Enter COVID-19.

In the six weeks I’ve been working from home, I’ve gained six pounds. At a pound a week, I’m in big trouble if our state’s stay home, stay safe order lasts much longer, as it likely will. This on top of the four pounds I gained over winter.

Though I’ve been walking, doing moderate yoga, and even running up and down a steep hill a couple times a week, being glued to a screen all day and stuck home has made for a far more sedentary lifestyle. Being over 50 doesn’t help. My metabolism is slowing, I’m sleeping poorly, likely because of pre-menopause and increased work-related stress, and as a Gen Xer, I’m sandwiched between two generations that need me.

But the real story is, I’m eating way too much, and too much of the wrong kinds of food.

To begin with, the refrigerator is always there. One little rumbly in my tumbly and it’s off to the kitchen. Then there is the panic grocery shopping I did in the first weeks of the pandemic. I spent inordinate amounts of money on food, fearing a shelter-in-place order any moment. I started buying things I never usually do, like bread flour and yeast in case I had to bake bread (which I actually did a few times and it was so good). I definitely suffered deprivation mentality for a while.

Another challenge is having two sons hunkered down with us. Our 21 year old sleeps most of the day and, like a vampire, stays up all night, eating everything in sight, healthy or unhealthy. There’s my 13 year old who, God love him, has become a vegetarian and overall health nut. He eats everything healthy in the house like a vulture. Between these two, I wake up most mornings to an empty fridge and a full sink, forced to resort to high-fat, carb-packed meals like grilled cheese sandwiches and potato pancakes.

I’m also bored. Doing the same things day after day and never being able to go out gets tiresome. Daily sweet and salty snacks make life more exciting. So does wine. I’m drinking it nearly every evening now, even on work nights, which is usually a no-no for me.

Summer is coming. I don’t know if beaches will be open, but I am determined to get my body bathing suit ready, or as ready as a 51 year old woman can. I did it once, and I can do it again.

This means saying no to sweets, bread, pasta, and heavy cheeses on weekdays. Choosing hard-boiled eggs and bananas for breakfast, salads for lunch, and rice, vegetables, and lean proteins for dinner. The only snacks will be nuts and pineapple, because the latter is so sweet it takes away my chocolate cravings. When my belly rumbles, I will remind myself that I’m eating three meals a day plus snacks, and therefore I am absolutely not starving to death.

On weekends, anything will go. Calorie restriction during the week, and then eating what you want on weekends (within reason), tricks the body, which would normally start storing fat if calorie-deprived, into restarting burning calories. I don’t have proof of this, other than it worked last time.

I admit that weight gain is a small price to pay compared to what some folks are going through during this pandemic. This isn’t just about my physical appearance, though. It’s about how I feel. Right now, I feel physically, mentally, and energetically heavy and drained. I want to feel light, nimble, and strong in every way. I have always believed that our physical bodies are reflections of our inner state, and vice-versa.

Someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, this pandemic will end. In the meantime, I’ve warned the boys that beginning this week, I’m labeling a drawer in the fridge and a cabinet just for my food, and they are under strict hands-off orders.

Tangled in the Narcissist’s Web

Let me begin by making clear that I do not like Donald Trump. Never have, never will. He has been on the scene my entire adult life, 30 plus years, and I was never impressed by his billionaire playboy persona. When he ran for president, I blew him off as another unfulfilled rich guy searching for more.

Yet here he is.

This post is not about him, though. It is about me, and people like me who, despite our dislike, have managed to get tangled in his narcissistic web. This tangling goes beyond Trump Derangement Syndrome. It is about boundaries, manipulation, and abuse.

Donald Trump is an abusive person. One need only read his angry tweets, watch his hate-filled rallies, and hear the insults he hurls at foes to know this. Yet it wasn’t until reading psychologist John Gartner’s take on Trump, in an article published by Salon, that I realized how the president’s malignant narcissism has damaged our collective American psyche. Whether you love him or hate him, Donald Trump is like an abusive, narcissistic husband and we, the American people, are the long-suffering wife.

The difference is one wife stays and enables the behavior, the other wife does what is necessary to survive while plotting her escape.

I understand not everyone will see it this way or agree. Some might lash out at me for saying so. I am opening up a can of worms here and I don’t care. Like a beaten, battered wife, I am saying enough. I am done allowing this man to manipulate and abuse me. I am setting boundaries.

My decision, in some ways my awakening, started with my oldest son. A Trump supporter, he challenged me to take one day off from posting negative articles and memes about the president on social media. I accepted his challenge and raised him a week. I am not so lacking in self-awareness that I don’t recognize my dislike of Trump is  unhealthy.

On the same day of my son’s challenge, I read the article mentioned above and something clicked. For over three years, I have accused Trump supporters of being manipulated by this president. I have felt angry over the way they  excuse and defend his poor behaviors. I have even felt sorry for them for not seeing how abusive he is, and speculated that something must be very wrong with them – perhaps racism, misogyny, internalized misogyny, low self-esteem, etc. –  to allow this.

That day I realized something was wrong with me. I, too, was equally tangled in the narcissist’s web.

For three years, I have lived in a near-constant state of outrage over this man. Every day I wake up, vow not to post anything about him, then start scrolling through the news online and become so riled up, it’s as if I have no control. Copy, paste, post or share. I work, spend time with family and friends, read, exercise, do yoga, go for walks and hikes, watch Netflix, drink wine, but in between these things Trump is too much on my mind.

What horrible, outrageous thing did he do or say today? What lie did he tell? What dumb thing did he proclaim, then later deny, much in the way a husband, caught with lipstick on his collar, might try and convince his wife it was her lipstick, even though she never wears the stuff? I have felt an almost civic duty to show people, especially people that I love who support him, that they are wrong. He is fooling them. He doesn’t care.

I have allowed myself to be driven crazy by this man, to be consumed by everything he says and does in a psychologically unhealthy way. This is exactly what the malignant narcissist wants.

No more, though I do expect some withdrawal symptoms as time goes by, even some relapses. Such is the nature of unhealthy relationships when you seek to end them.