LeAnne Thomas, a single mom of two teenage boys, currently lives and works as an Office
Manager in Nashville, Tennessee. At present, she is completing her degree in psychology
and sociology. Future aspirations include writing, teaching, and counseling. She has been
living the low-carb life since January, 2003.
"It may be said with a degree of assurance
that not everything that meets the eye is as it appears."
— Rod Serling
A flash of silver caught my eye as the sunlight streaming through my bathroom
window collided with the part in my hair. "Could it be time already?" I asked
myself, as I mentally calculated the number of weeks it had been since I'd had
my hair done. Yes — it was time to call my colorist for an appointment. It had
only been four weeks, and I was hoping to make it for six. As with my
seven-year-old car, it was getting more and more expensive to maintain this
Unlike the old clunker sitting in my garage, I was stuck with this model until
her wheels (or legs as it were) fell off.
My focus shifted from the silvery line of demarcation in my hair to the laugh
lines around my eyes that no longer disappear when I stop laughing. There was
little for me to find amusing this morning; face to face with the reality that
while the girl may be getting better, she is definitely getting older. How
much it would cost me to tighten things up a bit, I wondered with hands on each
side of my face, pulling the skin taut.
I continued through the list of things
about myself I'd like to change if I won the lottery. Porcelain veneers on the
teeth, electrolysis, maybe a breast lift, and (what the heck) implants. A tummy
tuck was definitely at the top of the list of must-haves, and probably the only
thing worth going into debt for should I never manage to pick those winning numbers.
There are many reasons to live the low carb way of life, not the least of which are
radiant health and boundless energy. But, if we are to be completely honest, the
primary motivation for most of us is vanity. We want to look good. Most of us
are willing to forego feeling good in order to be slim.
If you don't believe me,
look at the sheer number of people today who are going under the knife and having
their stomachs reduced to the size of a walnut, not caring whether they become sick,
malnourished, or even die in the process. Or less drastically, we end up depriving
ourselves on diets restrictive enough to make us feel faint every time we stand up
If it weren't for vanity, I don't know if I could have managed to
white-knuckle it through the first week of induction. One of the blessed surprises
of the Atkins diet is not only do I look better, I feel tons better. Make no
mistake about it; feeling better is what keeps me going with this way of eating.
Otherwise, I would be like the masses of other people jumping from diet to diet,
popping pills, or finally resorting to surgery. In fact, I've often said the only
thing standing between gastric bypass surgery and me was Dr. Atkins. I'm so glad
he was there first.
Nevertheless, it is quite disconcerting to face the fact that by the time I reach
the monumental goal of losing 143 pounds, I'll also have the gray hair, wrinkles,
stretch marks and sagging skin to contend with. I mentally kick myself for not
becoming a believer sooner, while I still had a shot at being one of the "pretty
people." Then I kick myself again for being so shallow. Ouch! I've got to stop
doing that. I've often wondered if my weight problem was not God's way of keeping
my ego under control and my spirit humble.
But where did this vanity come from? I'm going to risk being cliché and blame the
media, at least partially. I came of age in the era of the supermodel. Ultra-thin,
airbrushed images of perfection hammered into my impressionable psyche through the
pages of Seventeen Magazine and in MTV videos. As an adult, however, I know that
these people aren't real. Not real in the sense that they are representative of
mankind (or womankind) as a whole.
I look around me and I see real people; people
with scars, wrinkles, saddlebags, and bad hair days. There are more of US than
there are of THEM, so why do we feel somehow like we are the ugly ones? Why isn't
the world more like that old TV show, The Munsters, where the fair-haired beauty of
the family is the one they pity as the "plain one?" Why do women my age flock to
their dermatologists for botox injections and chemical peels, trying to hold on to
that fresh-faced look just a little longer? As if the ultimate sin would be to
"let themselves go."
As I stood there contemplating the concept of being real, as opposed to
media-manufactured Barbie doll images held out to us as ideal, I remembered a
story I used to read to my children when they were small. So much wisdom can
often be found within the pages of children's books, and The Velveteen Rabbit by
Margery Williams has plenty of such wisdom to impart.
My favorite part of the story
is a particularly poignant passage where the Velveteen Rabbit, a child's toy, asks a
fellow toy, the Skin Horse, what it means to be real:
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near
the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.
"Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you.
When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves
you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are
Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a
long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have
sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real,
most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in
your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you
are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
The slamming of the door breaks my reverie and I see my youngest son trotting out
to the bus stop. He looks at me staring at him through the window and smiles.
Suddenly, he turns on a dime and comes running back into the house. I start to
feel a little annoyed, because I fear he's going to miss the bus for the third
time in a week. He runs into the bathroom where I am and says, "I forgot something."
Copyright © February 2004 LeAnne Thomas and Low Carb Luxury
I feel my blood pressure rising, and just as I was about to blow up because I didn't
have time to take him to school (again), he puts his arms around me and says
"I love you, mom. Have a good day." With that, he bounds out the door and barely
manages to catch the bus on the run, leaving me in a puddle with freshly applied
mascara running down my cheeks. I was definitely going to be late for work.
It occurred to me in that moment that I WAS real. Not just real in the sense that
I'm a normal person, but I've been made real by the process of living, loving, and
being loved. I've become real because I've been strong enough to endure the trials
of life and not be broken by them. Every year I live, every wrinkle on my face, and
every gray hair bears testimony to the laughter, tears, work and worry that is the
stuff of life. Even my sagging, deflated belly represents victory over almost 20 years
of obesity — something that few people manage to accomplish.
Being real is what allows
me to connect on a deep level with my friends and family, making them unafraid to
share their warts and imperfections, too. No, I'm not a blue-eyed china doll sitting
on a shelf, appreciated, but not really loved. I've been tossed about, dragged
around, scratched up, stretched out, squeezed tight, left in the rain, and put up
wet. And that, in a word, is BEAUTIFUL.
Title photo Copyright © 2004 Neil Beaty and Low Carb Luxury
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