My Nanna

Before I talk about my Nanna, I would like to point out the relevance of this blog. In today’s society we are all so hung up on losing weight, even to the point of seeking magic pills or “Cellular Nutrition” meal replacement powders (I use the term Cellular Nutrition loosely since all nutrition is cellular), that we lose sight of what being healthy really means. Scales become the single most obsessive tool for people desperate to lose weight. That reading which tells you just how heavy you are isn’t really that important. What really matters are things like  body composition; how much muscle you have; your bone density; whether you have the right amount of body fat to protect your organs and provide increased energy levels. When you start to lose weight you feel better, you move better and you feel stronger. Scales should be the last indicator of your progress, so push them under the bed or even throw them in the bin, because they won’t tell you the full story.

I was only five when my Nanna passed away and like all little kids I did enjoy a cuddle from Nanna. I don’t remember too much about her, but I remember some things. Above adoring my Nanna and being spoiled for being the youngest, I do remember she wasn’t terribly active and she was overweight (in today’s term, “morbidly obese”).  I remember the ornaments she had on her mantelpiece, I remember biscuits (mostly Arnott’s) and I remember she drank tea. I don’t remember any lovely cooking smells coming from her kitchen and I don’t remember sitting down at her dinner table for a roast dinner or a home-cooked meal.  I do know she loved a game of Bingo at the local bingo hall in Granville. The bingo hall was an old disused cinema, quite small really, but when you are little it looked enormous.

Anyway, back to Nanna’s kitchen. No smells, no memories of eating her beautiful home cooked meals! Why? I asked my older sister and she remembered a lot more. She remembered Nanna loved battered fish and chips – not cooking them herself, but buying them from the local shop (actually, sending someone out to get them for her). My sister said she loved pineapple fritters (a slice of pineapple, dipped in batter and deep fried); Dagwood Dogs which were a type of sausage (goodness knows what was in them) also dipped in batter and deep fried; Banana Fritters (like Pineapple fritters) and Battered Savs (another type of sausage which was – guess what? – dipped in batter and deep fried).

My sister tells me that if Nanna didn’t win at Bingo, she would go home and open a can of Pea and Ham soup, butter some white bread and slather it with plum jam (64% sugar) and have that for dinner. So you see Nanna didn’t eat particularly well. Nanna also led a very sedentary life which led to her gaining a lot of weight.

Nanna was born in 1916.  Life expectancy for a female born that year was approximately 61 years and 1977 was still a long way off.  Time went by in Australia and medical and lifestyle changes brought better living conditions with life expectancies beginning to increase for everyone.  By 1946 a female born in 1916 was expected to live until she was 73, so things were looking up for Nanna and she was still looking at reaching the year 1989.  By 1981 the life expectancy of a female born in 1916 was 77 and the hope of seeing in 1993 was looking promising. Her grandchildren would all be adults and she would enjoy the laughter of at least a dozen great-grand kids.

Sadly though, Nanna would pass away in 1972 having only just celebrated her 56th birthday.  She would never see her grandkids grow up and never meet any of her great-grandchildren. I was lost without my Nanna and at age 5 didn’t understand why she had left us. I didn’t know what a stroke was, nor did I understand a heart attack; all I knew was Nanna had gone away and wasn’t coming back.

Strangely enough, Nanna’s mother, whom we all knew as Little Nanna, was a tiny woman who although slender and frail-looking, was far from it. Little Nanna I understand was active, knew how to cook and made home-cooked meals frequently! Her lifestyle was completely different to her daughter’s and although she was born in 1882 she lived until she was 89, passing away in 1971 and almost outliving her daughter.

I guess what I’m trying to say is life and family are too precious to throw away, but that is what Nanna was doing by eating poorly and not getting any exercise. If only she’d lived a lifestyle more like her mother so we could have had more time with her. Sadly, more and more people today are living the same kind of lifestyle that my Nanna lived. Life expectancy is longer as a general rule, but morbidly obese people are still dying in their 50’s and 60’s and depriving family members of precious years with them because they will not change their habits.

Change doesn’t have to be dramatic, but you do need to change. Change how you eat and start moving. Our bodies are machines and like all machines, if you don’t maintain them, they break down.  And unfortunately when we breakdown we die.

So rather than saying you are going to make a change for yourself, look at your loved ones and make the change for them. You’ll all appreciate it more when you can spend more time with them, see your kids grow older and see your grandkids have kids and enjoy what they bring to your life.