Failure To Thrive
I woke up on New Year’s Day 2018 in Central Texas, where the temperature was currently at some location south of 20 degrees F. Unusual for that part of the country, although not unheard of. Just a cold snap, and we had very little in the way of heating elements. A couple of space heaters, which worked best in very small spaces.
I was in the tiny bathroom, then, enjoying the heat and not wanting to leave, when I spotted my naked torso in the mirror. Nothing crucial. Just neck to waist, but I was nice and warm, and I thought I looked pretty good for an old guy. I snapped a picture with my phone, then got dressed and ran it through a bunch of filters to show my wife.
Here’s the point, other than vanity—I just thought it was a New Year’s thing, an opportunity to appreciate the fact that I was hanging in there, not decaying into some flabby, wasting shell of a human male, ready to grow a moustache and tell 20-year-old grocery checkers about my new hip. I was feeling a little cocky, sure.
This year, less so. Yesterday I immediately went into a funk, as my scale did this funny thing, what I assumed was a correction (scales don’t, or shouldn’t, have volatility; the human body does, though), and dropped down nearly 4 pounds from the day before.
That drop isn’t what bothered me; it’s not like I lost 4 pounds in a day. It was that it showed me a weight that felt correct, that was a few pounds under what I’d been seeing and so was hoping that I just had been somehow eating more than I thought. This is probably not possible, not with me, but I was kind of hoping, and then yesterday happened.
None of this is life-threatening. It just bothered me that a year ago, I was preening in front of my wife, strutting around with no shirt on because hey, I was nearly 60 and I weighed about what I did when I was a senior in high school. Hadn’t always been that way, so yeah. I was feeling good about it, particularly since I’d had an issue with appetite a couple of years before and it scared me quite a bit.
And now I was down 19 pounds from the year before. That’s all it was. A January 1st weigh-in that turned out to not be so much fun, if in a different way than for most people. Kind of put a damper on the day.
My wife and I talk about this a lot. We talk about my appetite, as if I were a cancer patient or an aging parent who seems to have given up on life. She constantly asks me if and what I’m eating. I check in with her.
Because it’s a gray area. A guy my age, maybe at this point around 5’11 and some loose change, who tips the scale (first thing in the morning, not particularly dressed) in the low 150s wouldn’t alarm, say, a physician who was unfamiliar, who would probably assume this man had been this way his entire life.
There’s nothing unhealthy about this weight, in other words. Trust me. I’m the one who looks this shit up. And while people who’ve known me for a few years at least, who pay attention, who remember when I got nervous and scared about this sort of thing, might worry, a stranger probably wouldn’t.
I get plenty of exercise, and there’s nothing wrong with my endurance. I work out and strength seems to be fine, even improving a little. My blood pressure and pulse are about perfect, blood sugar fine, etc. I don’t smoke or drink. My diet is a lot healthier than in the past, not perfect but pretty good.
But that’s not the point. Lack of appetite is the point, even if I feel OK, not really depressed or moody at all. Not great, but you know. I sleep pretty well. I’m not lethargic. I’m social.
So it’s a mystery, and it worries me. Yesterday I made an effort, including a big dinner at a neighborhood restaurant, bordering on forcing myself to finish but nice, tasty. And the scale jumped a couple of pounds, as it will in these situations.
Honestly, sometimes this feels like a fake problem. I don’t live in Somalia, or Yemen (or Venezuela). I have access to food, good food, plenty of food. I live in America, which is made out of calories. There’s a global obesity epidemic, decreasing our life expectancy and related to most of the major illnesses we currently experience. The better part of valor might be to stay on the low side. It’s hard to imagine anyone having sympathy; I’m not sure I would, at least 15 years ago.
The title of this post is what’s bothering me. It’s usually used to refer to children, but I’ve heard it tossed around in long-term care situations with elderly people. And I want to be someone who thrives. It appears I have some work to do.