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That’s So Cheesy

Once upon a time, I could eat just about anything I wanted. Pizza, spaghetti, bagels, Good Humor ice cream bars, lemon meringue pie… And I didn’t gain weight. I didn’t feel sick. And I was happy.

The first food limits were self-imposed when I stopped eating meat at the age of 13. While my decision came about due to my love of animals, I had also noticed that I felt awful every time I ate meat. Who knows if this was physical or psychological, but either way, that was the first food-related restriction. It seemed to bother other people way more than it bothered me. Everyone worried about what I could eat. And where I’d get my protein. And that I’d end up with anemia. This was back in the Stone Age when there weren’t the myriad alternative meat options there are today. Every time there was a family get-together, there was the wringing of the hands as to what they could feed me. I always tried to remind everyone that their entire meal did not consist of dead animals. That there were plenty of other options on the table. But the panic ensued for many years.

Thankfully, after college I moved to Los Angeles, where veggie burgers were found in abundance, and fresh fruit and vegetables were available year-round. And there were other kindred spirits who made me feel that I wasn’t so alone in the world of carnivores.

Pasta was always a great option as well. My favorite was Fettuccine Alfredo, the ultimate comfort food. Carbs slathered by creamy, cheesy goodness melted into one coma-inducing blob of deliciousness. And I still didn’t gain an ounce.

And just around the time I was congratulating myself for still being within ten pounds of my wedding weight, wham! The need for surgery arose. And things started to change. First was that my blood pressure went sky high and never completely reverted to the very normal numbers I had always enjoyed, in spite of the various medical combinations my doctors prescribed. Obviously, diet and exercise were important. So I learned to live within the boundaries of a sodium-restricted diet. Everything began tasting like cardboard. And, I gained ten pounds. So food tasted worse to me, my options were starting to shrink while my stomach and thighs were starting to grow.

Then, sugar became an issue. I didn’t drink sugary sodas, and I didn’t often eat dessert. But I did drink orange juice in the morning. It was my special treat each day. But I grudgingly switched over to low-sodium V-8. Which I now really enjoy, but in the beginning, it made me very grumpy. And more favorite things got crossed off the list.

But I still had my pasta. And I still had my cheese. So I made some adjustments to my diet and carried on.

Then came the thyroid surgery. The surgery I hadn’t been worried about. The surgery that left me without a speaking voice for six months. The surgery that changed so many things about my body, I’m still reeling. But the main two changes were that I got sick every time I ate, eventually realizing it was the gluten that was the problem. And within one year I gained over 30 pounds. So in spite of the fact that I had to cut out my beloved bread and pasta, the weight was piling on faster than I could put food in my mouth.

I exercised. I counted calories. And nothing changed. Finally, I got really strict about what I was doing and over the course of a year and a half, I lost 20 pounds. I was so proud of myself. And I kept it off in spite of so many stressful things happening in my life. Then, out of the blue, last year, the weight slowly started creeping back on. And within about two months, ten pounds came back. NO! I screamed each time I got up the nerve to step on the stupid, traitorous scale. What the heck? I hadn’t changed anything that had been working, and yet those sneaky calories were still somehow sabotaging my best efforts.

I did some soul-searching. There was still one delicious thing left in my diet. I could eat it straight out of the fridge when I was hungry. Melt it on a corn tortilla for breakfast. Shred it over a boring salad and make things tasty. But, it does have lots of calories. And fat. And has addictive qualities. My beloved cheese. The last holdout from my previous carefree life. But in the interest of health and weight control, I researched cheese substitutes. I bought several that were sliced and some that were shredded. I took a nibble of the sliced “cheese” that was supposed to taste like cheddar. I shuddered. I tried the shredded “cheese” over my rice pasta – it wasn’t too bad, melted. Then one of my friends informed me the slices also needed to be melted in order to be food-like. And it’s true. Especially if you add some avocado on top of it.

So far, the scale has rewarded me by going down one pound. One whole pound, imagine that. I’ve given up the last bastion of deliciousness and one pound has melted away. OK.

So, I’m going to try to get some more exercise in my daily life and see if that helps. Some recent studies I’ve read give me hope. One is about the correlation between sleep and weight loss – I could get behind that one. I’m ready to sleep almost any time of day. Especially if I blink too long. Another study said something to the effect that taking a bath might be equivalent to a half hour of walking. Sign me up! If sleeping more and taking baths could get me to my normal weight, you probably won’t see me until the end of July.


Meanwhile, nobody better mention taking my avocado away from me. I’m a woman on the edge.


Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved



Welcome to the 50s

Numbers-Birthday-Cakes-50I did not sign up for this. Or, at least I think I didn’t sign up for this. Considering the state of my memory these days, I really can’t swear to anything I may or may not have done. But I’m talking about life as a person well into her 50s. Not that I was delusional about what life would be like passing the mid-century mark. I knew that most likely my eyesight would go from perfect to near-perfect. That I might gain a pound or two. And that I might have to rely on color in a bottle when it comes to keeping a few stray grey hairs out of my hairline. When I hit the dreaded 5-0, I think I was more upset about having to admit that I could possibly be that age, than what was actually about to happen to me in every aspect of my life.

The eyesight actually started fading away in my late 40s. Considering I had always had perfect eyeglassesvision, I stayed in denial for as long was humanly possible. I was slightly far-sighted to start with. Soon, there was no chance of holding reading matter far enough away from my face to actually make out the letters. Although, I can read street signs in the next city – it’s kind of my hidden superhero talent. These days, denial resides in what strength reading glasses I buy. When it finally becomes obvious that I don’t even realize there are words on a page, I finally cave and go up to the next level. Although I continue to hold onto the weaker glasses, in the hope that, at some point, things will magically shift into reverse and I’ll actually be able to see again.

Laundry_symbols_with_japaneseBut the world conspires against me as well. Lately, in the form of trying to read laundry labels. There are the clothing manufacturers that must have people of a certain age working there, since they have crisp black labels with glaring white print in a readable font that anyone should be able to decipher. But lately, there are the clothing companies that I can only presume to be run by sadists in their 20s with perfect vision. The color of the label is a very pale grey – very classy. The print – for I presume there is print – is the softest wisp of white – in a size which surely must be microscopic, and a font with so many loops and so little substance that they might as well have not included a label at all. So after I attempt for at least five minutes to catch a hint of a word that might be helpful, such as hang, line, warm, will disintegrate… I do what I always do and fling that garment into the washer on a delicate cycle and, if there’s room left on the clothing rack, I lay it there once it’s clean. If not, into the dryer it goes, on a wing and a prayer. Surprisingly, most of my clothes actually survive this process.

I know I’ve discussed the morphing of my body into the Pillsbury Dough Boy numerous times, butmirror I still can’t stop shrieking every time I look in the mirror. I am not this person. At least, I was not this person until a little over 10 years ago. That was the first surgery that started the ball rolling. But it still wasn’t horrifying. There was still hope. Then, 5 years ago came the next surgery. The one that spun me out of my comfortable little bubble of denial into hell. Men, you can stop reading here, because we all know that all you have to do is close your eyes and say, “I wish to lose 10 pounds – in my stomach.” And, when you wake up in the morning, poof! Your body is exactly as you wished. This, menstruation, childbirth, and menopause are all the proof I need that G-d is a man.



I’ve been somewhat luckier with the hair. The miracle of chemistry has made it possible for me to continue to have some semblance of my actual hair color with just a mere shampoo and a quarter-sized dollop of something resembling shoe polish. So no matter how old I actually get, my hair promises not to give me away. This is the only time in my life I have truly believed in better living through chemistry.


Aches, pains, and invisibility have all arrived full force in this decade of my life. The latest indignity is grasping scissorsfrantically through the caverns of my mind to find words that have begun to elude me. I can be about to ask my children to hand me the scissors, and the best I can come up with is to ask for “those things that you cut with.” After my children are done rolling on the floor, laughing at me, I am grateful that I still remember the function of said scissors and the fact that someone actually handed them to me.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am also grateful to find myself mobile and intact and still here each morning when I open my eyes to the possibilities of the day ahead of me. And so, in spite of wondering how my life’s journey has brought me to this age in what seems like nanoseconds sometimes, I make sure I thank G-d (male or female) for giving me one more day. Whether I can see it or not.


Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

Sky High

dotted.shoesI recently read that a research study had been done concluding that people often judge others by the shoes they wear. As if we’re not judged enough by other ridiculously superficial criteria. But that’s a rant for another day. Anyway, there were several factors taken into consideration including the obvious – if the shoes were expensive, the style, and their condition, along with other factors. People made snap judgments based on those factors, including political affiliation, income and emotional stability. Hmmm.

Anyway, I pretty much live in two kinds of shoes, depending on the season – sandals sneakersthroughout the summer, and sneakers in the winter. Or, if I must, the least hideous walking shoe I can find. Not an easy prospect with AAA feet, I promise you. I honestly wouldn’t want to know what snap judgments anyone makes about me when – or if – they bother looking at my feet.

pink.wedge.shoeThere was a time I cared about style. Back in the day, I wore outfits that required a stylish shoe – specifically, platform shoes. I could wobble down the street with the best of them, confident that I was at the height of fashion. Comfort be damned – looking good was all that mattered. Of course the definition of looking good at the time was so skewed it included giant shoulders, giant hair, and a giant amount of glitter. So subtlety and class were obviously in short supply. But it was the ’80s, so need I say more?

Fast forward to our modern age of sky-high stilettos. I have walked  past these modern beaded.shoestorture chamber devices in various shoe stores and I am certain that if I even ventured to try one of these shoes on, I would end up breaking both ankles in an exceedingly painful, cringe-worthy display of flailing arms and limbs askew.

The phenomenon I’ve noticed both in person and on TV is that women walk very strangely nowadays. They take tiny little pigeon steps while moving as quickly as possible. At first, I had no idea what was going on when I’d see female guest stars on talk shoes hurrying to their seats in this odd  manner. It’s such an unnatural walk, but it’s ubiquitous these days. (*Please note, that this walk excludes supermodels who are capable of model-striding on mile-high stilts, unlike your average human female.) But back to mortals wearing these shoes. Even down-to-earth funny ladies feel obligated to wear these ridiculously uncomfortable shoes, in the name or femininity and style. And they do that quick pigeon-shuffle as well. But they don’t walk this walk for laughs, but instead, to get to their seat and get off their feet as quickly as possible. The relief on their faces is palpable as they sink into their chairs, having successfully navigated any obstacles in their way, without toppling over or humiliating themselves in any other heel-related way.

Supposedly, flat shoes are making a comeback. For the last 20 years, let me assure you, theyblack.shoe haven’t ever left me. On the very rarest of occasions, I have managed to find a shoe that merges both comfort and style (to the extent that a heel-challenged shoe can do that), but generally it’s one or the other, and these days, comfort always wins.

red.high.heelSo, as in so many things these days, I will leave discomfort to the young. You girls look great when you’re standing still or sitting down, waving your feet around in your shoes that resemble works of art adorning your feet. Just do your best to not have to rush anywhere when you’re wearing those things. Because that pigeon walk kind of destroys the glamorous, sophisticated image you’re trying to project. Unless, of course, you’re a super model. In that case, the rest of us don’t stand a chance anyway.


Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved


Remember Etch A Sketch, the popular sketching toy where you could turn the dials and draw anything you wanted and then just shake the thing to make it magically disappear? And that cardboard pad with the plastic sheet on top where you could draw with a stick, then lift the plastic sheet, and once again, make it all vanish? My guess is that these toys came from the mind of a frustrated mother who had one too many “masterpieces” taped to her refrigerator (in the days before kitchen magnets).

The strangest thing has started happening to me recently. I, too, have started to disappear. Actually, I have started becoming invisible. It is a disconcerting phenomenon, to say the least. Perhaps you have been finding yourself becoming invisible, too. I don’t mean the kind of invisible like Harry Potter and his invisibility cloak. I mean the kind that seems to occur anywhere you turn once you have passed a certain birthday involving a 4 and a 9. One day you’re here, the next day, well, who really cares?

It starts with our faces. One day you wake up and notice that your lips seem to have blended seamlessly into your face. No longer do they have that dewy youthful rosy glow to them. Now they are just pasty, pale spacers for our teeth. And what about our eyelashes? Remember eyelashes? Long, dark, sensual eyelashes that made our eyes seem alluring and captivating? Well, where did they suddenly disappear to? Once you pass that birthday with the 4 and 9 in it you suddenly need a highlighter delineating exactly where the eyes and the lips on your face used to be.

It’s bad enough that we find ourselves becoming invisible. But when it comes to the media, where have all the 49+ women gone? Don’t ask the advertising agencies. Take a look at the commercials for cars, clothing, restaurants – you’ve got the idea. Everything has to do with sex. We try to discourage our teens from having sex, but when you look at the barely clad nymphs staring poutily back at you in magazine and TV ads, what do you want to bet that most of them aren’t a day over 21? Exactly what kind of message are we sending to our kids? We want you to abstain, you are too young for this, but look at these clothes you can wear just like the rock stars and actresses who bare everything and then proclaim their virginity. Yeah, right.

And let’s talk about TV shows. Once a woman is creeping up near the range of the decade beginning with a 5, she has lost her luster. She is banished to the role of wise/sarcastic/pitiful (take your choice here) friend/mother/desperate single person. Her hip/trendy children/neighbors/co-workers are cast as young and exciting and yes, sexy. She might as well be wearing a paper bag over her head. For the most part, make-up companies have discarded beautiful, mature actresses to replace them with 20-something barely-out-of-school stars in ads for make-up for older women! And the logic to that is….?

We are pegged into little categorical boxes by our age. Once we pass 35, we enter a whole new box. And if we pass 49, we are shipped off into geriatric land where we no longer have any hope of being seen as a human being at all. While most women in their 40’s, 50’s and beyond are active, youthful and often feeling the best about themselves that they have ever felt in their lives, outside forces are conspiring to tear down that wall of self-esteem in order to make them feel that they must do everything they can to look young again or they are of no use to the rest of society. They are commanded to buy make-up, moisturizers, vitamins, join a fitness club, do botox, spend every dime they have in order to try to re-capture the pre-pubescent angst of their youth. Ponce de Leon never did find the fountain of youth here in America, so instead we look for it in a jar or a pill. Having discussed this very subject with many of my wise and mature female friends, I could not find one of them who would trade the wisdom and experience of their years to return to the cliques, insecurities and pressures of their teenage years. So why are we being made to feel like we should? Who exactly is running the show here?

I find it liberating to go grocery shopping wearing a T-shirt and sweat pants and not feel that I have to fling myself behind the endcap display to hide from someone I know. I am now able to give a speech in front of a large group and not have my heart do a ratatatat in dire fear that I might somehow embarrass myself and be banished from the rest of humanity for life. I enjoy not feeling compelled to update my wardrobe every five minutes so that I won’t be the broken-hearted recipient of looks of disdain and pity from my peers.

Women, unite! Stand up for yourselves. We are beautiful, vibrant, and yes, sexy. I’ll be right out there to join you as soon as I can get my mascara and lipstick on, OK?

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved.