The Numbers Game
I have been wanting to write this post for a few weeks but something in me has been resistant. For one thing, I want to discuss weight, yes as in THE NUMBER ON THE SCALE. I know, we aren’t supposed to care about that right? But it is one indication of health and fitness after all and one that I don’t think should be taboo OR overanalyzed.
Here’s the deal, for as long as I can remember my “happy weight” was between 131 and 133, 134-136 was just fine as well but 137 and up was a little uncomfortable because, let’s be honest, I knew I was carrying more than necessary. I have also had a desire to see the scale read anything below 130 for as long as I can remember. There were many a half-hearted attempt at a “diet” but I think I always self-sabotaged a bit because I knew somewhere deep down that my body really liked being in the 130’s.
Sure, I could have lost a few pounds and been no where near underweight but I was eating a mostly vegetarian diet FULL of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein that fueled my hours of dance, yoga, running, teaching aerobics, biking, and hiking.
Since 2008 or so my weight has been on the high side (FOR ME), 137-138. There are many things I can attribute this to, living in Peru I drank more than usual (not a lot but it was a way to be social), I was out of my element, and I was not teaching 7 hours of exercise classes a week and biking an hour a day like I had been in Portland. During this time I saw 132 as a magic number, a number where I would feel lean and fit and my jeans would be loose on my thighs.
Well, since I left my scale in my apartment in Peru I have lost 7 pounds and now weigh in at 131. There are 4 reasons why I have lost weight.
- I started losing weight while traveling, despite my concern that eating out all the time would add up to, umm, unwanted baggage. One reason for this is that my husband and I are so frugal when we travel that we didn’t drink that much (except Argentina, where the wine is cheap and delicious :)) and since we didn’t have a kitchen of our own stocked with food I only bought food when I was truly hungry. Also, I started paying more attention to my internal cues of when to stop eating.
- In the end of May, almost 4 months into our trip, I started this blog. Writing about my meals, workouts, and goals and putting it out there for the world (or at least my 5 loyal readers at the time) made me inspired be accountable to myself and stop the internal hypocrisy. I believe that overeating or eating when you are not hungry are forms of self-abuse and disordered eating. There have been too many times in my life when I have succumb to these atrocities and I was ready to put an end to this. Blogging has helped me learn to stay true to my intuition around food.
- And then I got sick. There were a few days in June and July when I barely ate anything. I was so sick that I remember trying to eat a bowl of soup and being too tired to get the spoon to my mouth. I think I actually did dip into the 120’s during this time but it doesn’t count. While I would never promote not eating or being sick as a way to lose weight it did help me reconsider my food choices and encourage me to make even better, more well rounded decisions as I started to recover (I was interested in doing whatever I could to get and stay healthy!). I thought that the weight loss was mostly due to being sick and that I would gain 5 pounds back as soon as my appetite returned but I didn’t. Two or three pounds returned but not as much as I thought, even as I started exercising again and gaining muscle back.
- I took birth control pills for 9 years and went off of them in June. This, I believe is the biggest contributing factor to how easy it now is to maintain 131 pounds.
My point of all of this is that here I am, weighing what I thought was my happy weight but it feels different than it did when I was in my teens and young twenties. Yikes! My metabolism is changing already! 131 pounds is feeling more like 136 used to feel, a healthy weight but not as little and lean as I would like given my super clean diet and active life.
So now I have to wrap my brain around my new designation of “happy weight”, which I am thinking is going to be around 127-128. I whole heartedly believe that I can achieve this weight and, more importantly, sustain it, with minimal changes to my calorie intake (watch the booze!) and exercise routines. My plan is continued focus on intuitive eating, slowing down my meals by taking smaller bites and setting my fork down, chewing more thoroughly, and yes, keeping alcohol to a minimum. Eating slower extends a meal, making me feel like I have eaten more, and gives my food time to reach my stomach before I decide whether I actually need to finish my plate or have seconds to be satisfied.
I also have to let go of the old nagging voice in the back of my head that tells me I will be hungry or “dieting” if I weigh less than 130. This is simply not true anymore. Maybe it was true when I was dancing all day and packed with muscle (which takes up less space than fat, making you smaller than if you have a higher percentage of fat at the same weight) but as I rapidly approach 30 and have no interest in heavy strength training I can see my new maintainable weight easily settling in a few pounds less then before.
The moral of the story is, weight is a concrete number, the bathroom scale reads 131 or it reads 138. Happy weight is a fluid number, one that may go up or down as we get older, go through pregnancy, postpartum, illness, recovery, training, and life changes and challenges.
Has your happy weight changed over the years? Do you love or loathe the scale?
P.S. This post happens to be about happy weight in regards to poundage. However, I do not believe that happy weight is always about scale weight by any means. Please refer to this post for more on my thoughts about emotional happy weight.