Wise Words from Benjamin
March 20, 2014
I had a terrible day in the office – one of those “grit-your-teeth-and-just-get-on-with-it” kind of days which seem to last forever. Fortunately at 4:30pm my day-job-day did end and I headed home. My head was pounding so I didn’t even bother putting on a CD as I drove down the motorway (and you know how much music and an enthusiastic sing-along can lift my mood). I just concentrated on getting back to Hudson HQ and a quiet evening.
I arrived home to discover that the unopened bottle of milk in the bottom of the fridge had obviously missed out on our “rotation” system (Lovely Husband is a coffee addict and running out of milk is never an option and it isn’t often that we get down to the last bottle). As I opened it my nostrils detected all was not well and a quick shake indicated that the contents were rather more solid than liquid and so had to be discarded, which meant that in order for me to have my soothing cup of tea I would have to head out to the shop to replenish the semi-skimmed. I was not happy.
I grumped my way to the supermarket, grabbed the milk and headed to the checkout. It was very busy and my mood wasn’t improved when I spied what I thought was a “queue jumper” trying to push his luck.
However it turned out that the rather elderly and quite frail-looking gentleman was simply trying to get the key to unlock a wheelchair to use in the store. The checkout chap was a bit flummoxed as he couldn’t leave his till to assist and none of his colleagues appeared to answer his call for help so I stepped forward and offered to help un-padlock the wheelchair. I was instantly rewarded by a big smile and a “thank you” from the assistant and the customer and I made our way slowly towards the wheelchair.
Once there I could understand why the gentleman would need assistance. The wheelchairs were padlocked together by a huge chain which was wrapped round the chairs in the most baffling way. We got the padlock undone and then I spent a good three minutes trying to free one of the chairs from the chain. (I’m giving my age away again but it really felt like I was in an episode of “The Crystal Maze”).
Once safely sat in the chair the gentleman squeezed my hand and said “bless you dear” and then struggled to balance a basket whilst pushing the chair. Again, I couldn’t just stand and watch. I had nothing special planned, just a cup of tea and a quiet evening, and so found myself suggesting that picking up his shopping would be much easier if I pushed and he directed me round the shop to get his groceries. I told him I had nothing planned with my time and so he agreed and we headed off in search of provisions.
It turned out to be quite a quirky shopping list which took some time – but forty minutes later we were back at the till with everything crossed off the list and I had had a really good time. My chap was called Benjamin. He was partially sighted, 70% deaf and had crippling arthritis but still remained fiercely independent. He was in his late eighties; his family lived some way away and were trying to persuade him to move into assisted accommodation – which was something that he really didn’t want to do.
What he did want to do was have a small tot of sherry every evening, a few squares of his favourite chocolate and butter on his thick toast.
As we were doing the shopping the conversation turned to food and what we liked and disliked and the subject of my weight loss journey came up. He very kindly told me that I really didn’t need to lose weight at all and told me I was “lovely looking” but understood the pressures of the modern world.
He said it was all very different when he had been a young man. In those days the ladies had curves and they wobbled.
His wife (Alice - who had sadly died) had always been a “bit bigger set”, but it suited her and she always managed to find beautiful clothes and was immaculately turned out. (“She always made me proud” he said which was really touching).
Our shopping expedition continued and we headed towards the bread and cake section. I confessed that I rarely ventured this way as custard, cream and pastry were one of the major causes of my bigger midriff. Benjamin chuckled and told me he couldn’t imagine life without thick crusty bread and a chocolate éclair. I told him that in order to reach my goal I would need to imagine life without them for some time and then they would have to go into the “moderation” category for the rest of my time on the planet.
He asked me what size I wanted to get to and I told him. He looked astonished. “There’ll be nothing left of you dear” he told me. I told him I had been at goal weight for most of my life and that it was only recent years that I had a wardrobe full of clothes that I wanted to get back into. He squeezed my hand and said “I don’t understand why you young ladies all want to be so skinny” (Bless him for calling me ‘young’). I explained that according to the weight and height charts it was within range for a healthy BMI.
Benjamin was a bit baffled by BMI. “We didn’t have all that in my day.
We had meat and two veg every night; we got lots of fresh air (I used to walk for miles every day), we had treats if we wanted them, but not so often that they stopped being ‘treats’. My Alice was a beautiful woman – but probably today she would be thought of as “fat” but she wasn’t. She was just a proper woman’s shape”.
A few more questions from me about Alice and I concluded that she must have been about size 16 for most of her life but with an ‘hourglass’ figure and never had any hang-ups about her size and shape. It seems that many of her female friends were the similar and were all happy and healthy.
They ate well but didn’t have the distractions of high street fast food outlets
takeaway didn’t exist and low-cost alcohol wasn’t a temptation during the weekly shop.
I know it is my responsibility to avoid temptation and make sensible choices when it comes to what I eat and drink. But sometimes I do feel frustrated that ‘slender’ (or even ‘skinny’) seem to have become the shape that we are meant to aspire to, and that anything less is a failure when it comes to being ‘the right size and shape’. So our instinct is to set ourselves a goal based on the size of the label rather than the ‘healthy range’ (I know I’m guilty of this...).
Meeting Benjamin turned out to be an unexpected pleasure and gave me the opportunity to see another viewpoint and it’s really important for my sense of perspective to not just go with what’s in my ‘headspace’ but to see what other advice and opinion is out there.
It’s not a question of “pleasing others”; it’s a question of “pleasing myself in a balanced way”
So whatever your goal; whatever your reasons; whatever your approach…take time to check out a different perspective every once in a while… it could be an eye-opener.
Have a great day