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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

19 Comments

  1. Louise

    Just wondering how tall you are? I have had a similar “happy weight” of 132 and am now feeling very comfortable at 128. (I am 5’4″)

      • Louise

        I was told I was done growing at 16 years old and 5’4″ but I think I have actually shrunk to 5’3″ by now but I don’t want to admit it! (I am 48). Our weights sound like they have been very similar over the years. I always wanted to get into the 20’s but don’t believe in dieting. The last few months I have been reading food blogs and they are making me more mindful about taking time to enjoy my food and not eating on the run and all of a sudden my weight went down to 128. I haven’t been there in 13 years! Thanks food blogs! Glad I found them.

  2. Allison W.

    I just happened to click over to your blog for the 1st time from Kath’s and I have to say that I totally identify with this. I was 5’4” and 126 lbs throughout high school and college, then gained a few lbs after college, to my high weight of 132. I was already eating pretty healthy and exercising regularly and I never thought that I could be less than that without deprivation. 3 years ago I stopped drinking Diet Coke, started eating bigger breakfasts and lunches and gradually I was down to 124. I have dieted to get to a “vacation skinny” 120 lbs, but 124-125 is where I tend to get back to. I want to be whatever weight I can thoughtfully maintain without getting too crazy psycho about it. I would miss dark chocolate but I’ve never missed Diet Coke!

  3. Hey hun, I guess I understand what you are saying…losing those last 5 pounds can be a challenge. I think you are right, if you are smart about it you could make it to your new goal happy weight. BUT if you get to 129lbs and feel “happy” maybe you should just hang there! You are healthy and fit and your body knows where it likes to be…even if you dont! (especially since really all your losing are “vanity pounds.”) goodluck! You are beautiful!

    • Thanks for the comment. Actually, my point is that I don’t think losing these next 3-5 pounds will be hard because I think my body is naturally ready to be at a lower weight, somewhere between 127 and 129 probably. If I reach it and it’s hard to maintain or if I never reach it than obviously it’s not my “happy weight’. It will be an interesting process!

  4. Hi! I clicked over to your blog this evening from Kath’s because I saw that there was another healthy living blogger named Faith and I absolutely had to check it out! Your story is so very close to mine, even down to the numbers. Even though I’m confident @ my weight now (132ish), I know my natural weight is definitely lower and that I’d like to work my way back down with some small changes. We can do this!

    • Hi Faith! I have only met a handful of Faith’s in my life and so I too am excited about other healthy living bloggers with my namesake. (There’s a cashier at Michael’s that must think I am insane because every time I see her name badge I proclaim “I’m Faith too!”)
      I understand where you are at, I am very comfortable with my current weight but I think due to my changing proportions as I age and am no longer dancing all day it is time to drop a few more pounds. If this proves to be a challenge and my body wants to stay here at 131 than so be it.

  5. I agree with you that our body’s happy weight changes throughout time. There is a certain weight that our body likes to be at regardless of what we may want. Throughout adolescence and now my college years, I have always tended to be heavier than I wanted. I think the happiest I have been with my weight was when I was in the 150s. It has been a while since I checked my scale weight but I know it is not close to my body’s happy weight but I am okay mentally where I am at. I am eating healthier, choosing more natural products to put into and on my body and getting more sleep. I know when I finally have time to add in the physical activity that my body needs I will be able to help my body get to its happy weight.

  6. i love this. sometimes its hard to explain to others why i get uncomfortable with a 3-4 lb weight gain, but it does make a difference. it’s less about the number and more about how i feel, how my clothes fit, and the eating/exercise habits (or lack thereof) that led to it.
    maintaining your “happy weight” when you already are already eating clean and exercising regularly is more of an art than a science. as you showed in your weight ups and downs, the smallest things can throw it off. but it’s fun experimenting and seeing how your body responds to different lifestyle changes as we age. great post 🙂

  7. What a truly great and inspired post ! Thank you Faith. How can I get those who see my blog in touch with your touching , true and totally pertinent post? I am at the same place of engaging my “happy weight” and Why? Love you Good good thankyou

  8. Hi again reading back over the comments I have input at 59 years old and an experienced “pro” at the maintain the body game(five babies later too) I do not believe in “vanity” pounds for one thing. The only scientifically proven way to LIVE LONG and prosper is keep a low body weight. This requires consistent “caring” through periods, through pregnancies, and nursings, miscarriages, break-ups, unions, etc. etc.etc.
    Who else cares? Only you and it may seem excessive or obsessive or possesive BUT you must care. Called to children’s needs Faith Go girl

  9. Kim

    Hi Grace,
    I’ve been reading since you’ve met Kath and wanted to know how you cook your beans. I believe I read that you soak them in the fridge for 2 days….and then what? I tend to overcook them and tend to prefer canned beans.
    Thanks!!

    • Hi Kim,
      I soak my beans (usually black or garbanzo but I like them all) for at least 24 hours in the fridge. Depending on the length of the soak and the type of bean the cooking time will be 20-40 minutes. Since I always soak for slightly different amounts of time I have to taste test the beans along the way while cooking to find when they are done. If your problem is that your beans turn to mush I recommend cooking at the lowest simmer possible rather than a boil.
      I hope this helps, my style of cooking is SO NOT an exact science that it is hard to give you specific directions 🙂
      Faith

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