Tuesday, August 22nd 2017

The Edible Woman

Oprah says, ‘You don’t have to be thin to be gorgeous.’ But my weight gain led to physical pain. So I discovered the joys of walking

BY SUEANN JACKSON-LAND — At 43-years-old I went to the doctor because my neck hurt. Well, that was part of the reason. I was walking around looking more and more like Quasimodo and less like SueAnn.  The reactions on the faces of people looking at me ranged from genuine concern to suppressed giggles; it was enough to humiliate me all the way to the doctor.  That and, of course, the pain.

Dr. Vanderbeck is a physician who looks directly at you when he’s telling you things you don’t want to hear.  He doesn’t condescend.  “SueAnn,” he began. “You have osteoarthritis in your lumbar, thoracic and cervical areas of your spine. Here’s the report, read it.” He wasn’t smiling.

I stuttered, “So this was from those two car accidents?”  He shook his head, no.  Then there was that uncomfortable silence where everything that needed to be said was already said.  “So this is the weight…”

To be precise: 238 pounds of weight on a 5’ 1” frame.  I hadn’t seen the underbelly, pun intended, of 190 since I was 21-years-old.  Why?  Because it was easier to excuse it off on depression, on marriage, on children, on the suicides of family members, on my father, my mother, the job, the dog’s need for bacon grease to have a glossy coat, my inherent love of mushy things in sauce . . .

So, the way I saw it, I had two choices. Stay fat, be in pain.  Take the fat off, no pain. That afternoon I joined the almighty Weight Watchers, already very cynical and stuffy about “give me a star for 5 pounds and I’ll punch your lights out.”  I started writing down whatever I ate and measuring things . . . and lost 3 pounds, 0.2 pound, 0.4 pound . . . when the light bulb came on.

I have to exercise, too?  Shit!

My husband is a walker — a maniacal walker.  The man walks 6 kilometers to work – one way (that’s roughly 3.7 miles for you non-metric folks).  His grandfather is a 98-year-old walker.  He’s a deaf walker who is pissed that all of his friends are gone but his body won’t lie down. I like that.

So I put on my running shoes, which never ran.  And I got myself a backpack for my work shoes and my lunchbox. I measured the distance to work.  It’s one mile one way.  Funny, put it as 1.6 kilometers and I can’t handle it. As one mile? Easy.

The first morning I was cautious.  I was looking at all of the cracks in the sidewalk.  All of the places the pebbles were missing.  All of the curbs that were trip hazards.  All of the cars that were way too close for comfort.  My legs were wobbly and my knees hurt.  This sucks.  One foot fell, “sucks,” another foot fell, “SUCKS”… sucks, sucks, sucks…. damn curb.

Breath in – breath out . . . keep going.  Sarah told me she uses a walking mantra.  “This sucks, this sucks, this sucks . . .”  Not the way to start off the day – switch it.

“Father, make me an instrument of your peace . . .”

A couple of days went by.  I walked one way to work and sat on the curb waiting for my husband to drive by and pick me up to go home.  I hated waiting. So I walked.

Ow.  Hey . . . look at that.  That house is pretty.  Look at the brickwork, the way the porch has a hanging basket.  Oh, hey now, there’s a velvet couch on the curb, a give away.  How would I get it home?  My apartment is early Salvation Army décor.  Ok, up the hill, over the railroad tracks.  Ow.  Straighten up, suck in the gut.

And there’s another person walking toward me.  Do I meet their eyes?  Oh hell, yes, go ahead, say “Hi” — I dare you.


My face is smiling.


My daughter brought home a cereal box from her Aunt Steph’s house.  I had been forewarned that there was a present coming.  I like to give presents — but I feel really kind of strange about getting them.  They always have a “what do you want” bow attached.  Open the card first, that’s polite.

Inside was written,

It’s hard to change old habits and try to define for ourselves a new path.  We are proud of you for stepping out in faith (quite literally) and deciding that your past does not define your present or determine your future.  Or to put it more succinctly . . . YOU GO GIRL!!!! Hope this helps to make your trip to work more enjoyable.  Happy Tuesday, Love Steph and Tracy.

I still can’t read (or transcribe) that card without tears.  Inside the cereal box, surrounded by plastic grocery bags, was an iPod Shuffle.

Wow.  I have a Shuffle.  And I have TUNES!  Oh yeah – loaded that puppy right up with Alanis Morrisette, Avril Lavigne, AC/DC, Blue Oyster Cult (gotta have more cowbell), Dar Williams, Janis Ian, Rita Coolidge, all of my sad hippy girl songs . . . and the walking mantra went straight into song.

I look for messages from the universe (yes, more specifically, God) in music, in lyrics.  Hells Bells just wasn’t cutting it.  And I clicked past that one and kept going.  “Hey, Hey, You, You, I don’t like your girlfriend.” Ok, now that got my heart rate up a bit.

sueanwalksmall.jpgOn the third or fourth day, I’m walking (pounding footsteps) and singing out loud for the entire neighborhood to hear, “I’m the best damn thing that your eyes have ever seen.”

Ow… FUN… ow… giggles… OW… ok… I can do this.  Keep going.

People at work are noticing the weight come off.  I don’t see it.  I come in to my office in the mornings and Christina has already opened up my window and it’s not so stuffy in there.  I turn my fan on and wait for my heart to calm down. Do I smell?  I take my sneakers and socks off, put them into the cabinet, change into my work shoes and I uttered, “Thanks, God.  That was good.”  Turn on the computer, get to work.

The next day I’m walking and I see this man huffing up the other side of the sidewalk.  He’s in sweats, he’s older.  He’s had a heart attack, I’ll bet.  And he’s racing death.  That’s a weirdness about me, I guess — I’m always inventing stories in my head to go along with the person sitting next to me.  There’s a lady and her son…

Ow.  Oh my God, how I miss my son.


Song changes – it’s Alanis.

I’m broke but I’m happy
I’m poor but I’m kind
I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah
I’m high but I’m grounded
I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed
I’m lost but I’m hopeful baby

Well, that’s just great.  NOW I’m walking and crying, damn it.  And here comes somebody!  Fast, hide!  I was walking and now I’m angry, ashamed and still crying.  Leave me alone.

Every day that I walk I pass by Junction Creek.  There’s a little neighborhood park and a wooden walking bridge.  When I walk past the creek, there’s a scent of must, of flowers, of nature that brushes past me.  And I can hear the water passing under the bridge, over the stones, going its own way.  I’m leaning over the bridge and my hands are shaking because the grief spasm is hitting and I know it will be over in a minute or two but I really hope no one sees me.

Song changes.  I can breathe again.

Dar Williams is singing, oh… no….

Go ahead, push your luck
Find out how much love the world can hold
Once upon a time I had control
And reined my soul in tight

Well the whole truth
Is like the story of a wave unfurled
But I held the evil of the world
So I stopped the tide
Froze it up from inside

I walked to work singing, “After All,” and I put it on repeat.  I no longer cared who saw or heard me.  The numbness inside had set back in but on the outside, I felt the breeze passing by me, my feet pounding in determination.

I’m 15 pounds lighter.  I lost 5 pounds in one week and got a star and a bookmark!  I don’t know if I’ll get to my goal weight.  Although, when people ask me “how much longer are you going to walk,” I tell them 85 more pounds.  My eating goes up and down.  If I’m writing it down, I do better.  If I stop, I cheat.  But I’m still walking.

SueAnn Jackson-Land, a Soul’s Code contributor, is a writer living in Sudbury, Ontario. She would like to be a chaplain, but is mostly just grateful to be breathing, given the opportunity to learn, to forgive (and be forgiven) and go on.

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23 Comments on “The Edible Woman”

  1. Ok -- I admit it -- I'm my biggest fan. I checked this morning and sucked in my breath. It's like Christmas morning being a contributor to Soul's Code. I'm still looking at that word "contributor" over and over again. Not ever in my wildest dreams... ever.

    One thing that I have to add to this... Cornelius (Connie) Kirwan, Chris' maniacal walker Grandfather, passed away this past September. He was 98 years old when he completed this life. He was holding his wife, Agnes' hand and all three of his children were in the room with them. How's that for walking.

    Thank you in so many words I don't have...

  2. i'll be your second fan then! great work sueann...very inspirational and very human. walking IS the best exercise...it doesn't cost a pile of $ to do, we don't need fancy clothes and we can see so much when we take the time to look around the neighbourhoods we are walking thru!

    i like to do my walks with my camera as my companion. if we all walked more in North America a lot of our problems would disappear...both private and public. keep writing for this site, your voice and heart are needed here.


  3. I love this. I am amazed that my card writing skills are that inspirational LOL...I should write for Hallmark ;)

    Keep on keeping on...and remember --that which does not kill you only postpones the inevitable--

  4. Dear SueAnn; As the son of a mother who kind of gave up on her physical health in her mid-30's, and spent the rest of her life gaining weight in a way that ultimately ended her life, I deeply sympathize with the issues you've shared. I admire your courage in sharing them, even more.

    I offer you my encouragement here, and ask others to join in.

    And since my mother never listened to my advice, let me give a piece to someone who is more receptive :)

    This will help your process: drink at least two litres of water a day. When you're under-hydrated, the body is tricked into retaining fluid. So paradoxically, the more water you drink -- the less you end up carrying around in your tissue. Water also helps you metabolize those pounds. Keep on walking the talk!

  5. Very nice piece and inspirational as always. Walking is super-duper and I couldn't live without it. It's a great way to kick depression in the ass too! ;-)
    I look forward to more of your writing.

  6. SueAnn,
    Superb. Delightful. Endearing. Hilarious.
    I miss being exposed to your unique and enchanting persective on life.
    I miss you.
    Congrats on the pounds!

  7. SueAnn,
    I miss you - and I am so proud of you!!! Would love a good-ole-sit-down conversation. Keep up the good work (know it IS work - that's why I'm so proud of you!)

  8. To borrow a quote from an acquaintance of mine, "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." I'm happy to experience your best.
    One story at a time, one step at a time and your gift keeps giving. Enjoy your journey moving forward, I am.

  9. SueAnn,
    You amaze me. Your writing skills are so down to earth. You are a natural. They say you should write what you know. You are an inspiration in so many ways. I love your humour and your style.
    Walking is such a good form of exercize. It clears the mind, it gives you the opportunity to think, to be alert to things around us, and helps us notice that life is too precious to let it slip by without a fight. To date, I've lost almost 40 pounds and I am healthier because of it. Keep up the writing and the walking. The walking really does help. You will be a new person. (and it's great to be able to buy clothes off the rack at a regular store). I look forward to your next submission. I'm very proud of you, my friend. ...Rita

  10. Every time I read you it just gets better, you are an accomplished writer now not just a wannabe....and full marks to you for all that walking, keep it up!


  11. Hi SueAnn

    You are doing all the right things. Keep it up. Walk, sing, laugh and complain occasionally if you feel like it. It helps take care of stress. Say hi to all the family, and be happy. Love, Cora

  12. This past summer I had to take the car so SarahAnn and I would drive past SueAnn while she was walking to work and you should see how determined she is. She really moves too. It's something to see.

  13. You go girl! Walking is great! It is the best exercise to do, it is not hard on your joints, and it will get your hear rate up! I to struggle with weight issues, I will be walking and watching my diet right along with you. I started two weeks ago, and need to lose 40 lbs. Take care! Debbie

  14. I always told ya you'd be famous..lol
    I loved the peice, it's wonderful and funny and honest and so much like you

  15. Girl friend, you put me to shame! I've been walking & doing water aerobics & senior exercises ... for months, & have only lost 15#. But you keep it up, ya hear?! I've been so worried about you for so long -- this is a blessing and a sky full of sunshine, to read about you taking such confident, happy steps towards a healthier future! And I'm gonna follow in your footsteps!

    Love ya,

  16. P.S. The piece was wonderful, as is everything you write. You are a wonderful writer, I stand in awe!

  17. Great writing! And walking, too. I try to walk every day for an hour. Most days I get it done. Keep it up.

  18. Very good Sis! Proud of you, as always.
    You woulda loved seeing me haul 60 pounds of gear up the side of Bull of the Woods mountain last Friday!
    I made it. And back down. That was nearly as hard. I called it 'different'. NOT easier. Just different.
    Lots of Mike Hearne song running 'round my head all week.
    Taos is gorgeous.
    Anyhooo....see ya on the trail!

    Yo' Bro

  19. SueAnn, I see that I never finished this note to you...so much going on right now and I'm a little off kilter (well, that's probably not a new situation!). Anyway, I loved this piece - you write the way you speak and that is such a gift! Keep walkin'!


  20. Great work!

    I love reading your writings, SueAnn.


  21. SueAnn - You look as stunning as you sound!!

    Very beautiful piece of writing. and it was so much more fun than reading the Spectrum closures!!! It's amazing and soo good to see the real talent in people. Keep it up!!

  22. you have my cosmic spiritual support

    your Brother IN THE WIND

    life is the random lottery of events followed by numerous narrow escapes...accept the good

  23. [...] blissful days of wanton gluttony (and bad haircuts, see photo to right), I’ve discovered that like most North American women, I’ve developed a few food and body “issues”. And now that I’m in my 40’s, even ads in my Oprah magazine (!) are telling me that I should be [...]

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