Dear Alma, In my 40s, I’m being hassled for my weight

Dear Alma, In my 40s, I’m being hassled for my weight

Daily Comfort Zone

norman lebrecht

September 15, 2023

From our agony aunt’s inbox:

Dear Alma,

I am a female performer in my mid-40’s, and a mom of three. During the pandemic, like many people, I gained weight, and have struggled to get back my former self, even slipping farther in the wrong direction. I had to buy new clothes, thinking it was temporary, and now my management has been making some (not unkind) remarks to me about my public concert appearance. I don’t think this has happened to men in my organization, but that’s a different topic altogether. I feel like I have given up, and it’s not only how I look, it’s how I feel too. I want to change. 

Do you have any advice? I am trying but I just feel embarrassed and have all but given up hope. 

  • Missing my former self

Dear former self,

I totally hear you. I also have struggled with exactly what you are saying here. Not only gaining weight during Covid, but thinking (optimistically) it could come off after, like it used to be able to when I was in my 20’s. That didn’t happen. Feeling not well, health-wise, and enduring the occasional snide comments and “concerned” colleagues and bosses certainly doesn’t help. Unless it can piss you off enough to get you out there and taking care you again. And let’s just ignore the double standard for now, I don’t have the energy to have that suck my soul at this moment. Let’s talk about YOU!

Firstly, you are young. You are in the prime of your life. You can do whatever you want to. It sounds like you are fed up and ready to make the change. Let’s go!

Print out a calendar for the next month and tape it to your wall in your kitchen. On tomorrow’s date, write a 30, then continue down until you get to 1.  This is your 30 day plan. Next I am going to give you a handful of options. I want you to pick three and do them for the 30 days. Some people like scales, some don’t. You could weigh yourself tomorrow and again on day 1, or you can put your scale in an old potato sack with something heavy (the Carl Flesch Scale Book?) and dump it into the Thames on a dark and stormy night.

If you are totally out of shape, it’s ok. All of the options below have variations for different ages and levels of fitness.

Option 1: Do a 7 minute workout first thing every morning. You can do free ones on YouTube or an app. Just set your alarm 7 minutes early and do it.

Option 2: Walk around the block one time every day.

Option 3: Do a Couch to 5K Podcast. The NHS has a nice one.

Option 4: Do a free trial at a Health club and go three times a week. When your trial is over do a different club or stay at yours for the 30 days. You can do a Boot Camp, yoga studio, zumba, whatever kind you have in town.

Option 5: Hire a personal trainer for three times a week for the 30 days.

Option 6: Don’t eat after 8 PM.

Option 7: Hands off the biscuits, croissants, cake or cookies. None of that for 30 days. This includes Victoria Sponge, bread and butter pudding, and even, yes, banoffee pie. And try to lay off the pints.

Option 8: Try intermittent fasting. Sounds strange I know, but it feels pretty good! You can get a free app for that also, and choose your level of commitment.

Do me a favor. Just pick your three things, do them for 30 days, and let us know how you feel at the end. You are a strong person – everyone who has made a life in classical music has serious discipline and focus. You can whip this thing.


  • Gustavo says:

    Inflation will make all of us slim.

  • Avoiding the Shower says:

    Dear Alma,
    This is Avoiding the Shower ( Here is my update: I had a meeting with Management. They were cold but listened. Now my conductor avoids me like the plague, which is awkward but at least much better. It feels bad but it’s a big improvement. Thanks for giving me the courage to speak up. I’m so glad I wrote in. I was petrified.

  • anon says:

    Please reconsider your recommendation of intermittent fasting, as it is potentially linked to increased risk of developing an eating disorder.

    I hope the writer will see this comment and know their body has kept them alive through an ongoing pandemic and extraordinary challenges beyond. Just as your body at 30 was not the same as it was at 20, your body at mid-40s is not the same as it was at 30, and that is ok and normal! Body weight and BMI are not at all informative health indicators.

    What matters is feeling healthy and able to perform your instrument as well as meeting the responsibilities of your personal life (not a small task as a mother of three!). I would have some choice words for a manager who felt it acceptable to make comments on my body, no matter how well-intentioned.

    • Doctor says:

      Agreed, Anon. Mixed reviews on intermittent fasting. Good to ask your doctor before making any big changes. These seem like reasonable ideas though. Mighty try a couple myself.

    • Mark says:

      Yes choice words indeed, although it’s a fact that people can get fired for their appearance, so it’s not a bad idea to give it a try to get back into the shape you desire.

  • Dixie says:

    Bombs and drones are dropping overall in Ukrain killing and wounding civilians, there is an epic refugee disaster in Italy, thousands are dead or missing in floods in Libya and Morocco … and someone in their 40’s is worried about being hassled for being FAT!!! Maybe it is asking too much, but could Alma and Co. and whoever else is responsible for this blog, get their priorities straight ASAP!!!!!

    • JRT says:

      Can you please explain the logic driving your rant? What can Alma do to solve these big problems. I’m sure that knowing how you are influencing for example the course of the war in Ukraine by having set your priorities straight can enlighten all of us. In general though, in the world there are tragedies happening every second even if they are not on the news: children dying of hunger or curable diseases in Africa, under the bombs in Yemen, working in factories under horrible condition to make clothes or iPhones. Why is everyone ever allowed to worry about personal problems except during the events of these days?

      • Dixie says:

        I used to weigh 10 kilos more than my present 45. Rather than write to Alma or anyone else, I took a good look at myself in the mirror and said: That’s enough! There is one simple exercise to lose weight: Just move one’s head from right to left and vice-versa several times whenever one considers eating or drinking something that puts on the kilos. If someone has offered the food/drink to you, same exercise … accompanied by words such as “No, thank your very much!” Of course, everyone is concerned by one’s own, personal problems, but if I am honest with myself and those around me, I KNOW that others are suffering more, be that in Ukrain, Libya, Morocco, Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea, most of Africa, Asia and Latin America where children go hungry every day of the year! If being overweight results from medical reasons, then SEE A DOCTOR that one trusts. Unfortunately that won’t help those starving and dying under agression, but it would be a good way for someone to quit feeling sorry for oneself.

    • Paul Joschak says:

      Don’t be fatuous! Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh, as George Bernard Shaw said.

    • Mixie says:

      Dixie – this is an advice column. This is what that look like. It’s not a humanitarian column. No one is going to be writing in from Libya.

      • Dixie says:

        Spot on!!! This is an advice column … but I find it more reasonable to center the advice around the world of music. E.g. the advice given to one reader who had problems facing auditions. THAT makes sense here. Problems with overweight? This blog has already turned into a obituary column … what’s next? Dear Abby?

    • Jeff says:

      You are reading the wrong website if you are interested in politics (unless it’s music politics). When have you ever seen news about flooding here? You seem to be a bit confused, honestly.

  • Enrique Sanchez says:

    Absolutely ridiculous post. Is this becoming “The National Enquirer”?

    • Marganne says:

      As a performer and mother, I can assure you that this is a big issue for women. No one comments on men who are a bit thick (or more) around the middle, and women get fired or not hired depending on their body shapes. It affects their ability to make a living. It’s serious stuff and it sounds like this person is interested in trying to get healthier again, no small feat. Wake up and look around you and see what women have to deal with.

    • Marguerite says:

      Enrique – have you ever had your boss tell you you need to change in order to keep your job? If not, you are one lucky guy. It’s very difficult to be a mother and on stage.

  • Ernest says:

    Option 9 – stick a pic of Callas before and a pic of Callas after on your fridge. If she can do it, so can you!

  • Carlo Gesualdo says:

    The post, while germaine to some performers seems to be right off topic (Classical Music) I have noted the skipped disc has been drifting into a personality column of late.
    Notwithstanding, no matter what one’s views are on fatness, the public does read books by their covers. It is fatuous(!) to think otherwise and it is the director’s perogative to choose his/her performers.
    With opera there is only so far one can take the suspension of disbelief. Therefore, if you want to be a consumptive Mimi you can’t be 100kg.
    Unless, of course, it’s a Post Modern European production set in Swaziland.

  • David says:

    Walking around a block may sound too little, maybe.
    But, by pure chance, I moved to a town at the foot of a mountain range just before the covid thing. I had difficulty walking around because the roads were full of ups and downs. Just walking around the block was tenuous enough for me. But after those two or three years, I find myself climbing a 600 meter peak once a week at age 68. It could not have happened if I didn’t start walking around the block every evening.