First I want to write a little about something that has been on my mind lately. It’s about advice regarding weight, weight loss, diet, etc. I have noticed that people seem to think there is some kind of one-size-fits-all approach that is best and we should all follow this approach. Generally, we each take our own experience and assume that everyone’s experience mirrors it.
This is simply false. If an obese person wants to lose weight, they are going to need a different approach than if a person with a healthy weight simply wants to tone up or get a little smaller. Similarly, a formerly-obese person is not the same as a person who has been a healthy weight all her life, even if they look the same on the outside.
I think these differences are where a lot of us run into trouble. We start to think that since X is working me, everyone else should X. Or if we feel that Y is bad for our self-esteem, we think everyone should avoid Y. But we all need different things to help us live a full and healthy life.
A lot of people tie their self-worth to the number of pounds they see on the scale. Doing the No Weigh In April challenge made me see clearly that I am not one of those people. Nor am I the sort of person for whom calorie counting is obsessive or destructive. I’m very logical and rational. Numbers work for me. It is simply data, nothing more. And I use these numbers to my advantage.
When I stepped on the scale May 1, the number was higher than my weight has been for more than a year, 177 lb.
Yes, that freaked me out and made me stop and think hard.
I’m not the same as a person who has always been a healthy weight. I am a person who has struggled with obesity all my life. And I think sometimes, I forget that. For all the talk about accepting ourselves and loving our bodies and not letting numbers define us, with which I agree completely, there is another side to that story.
At my most unhealthy, I didn’t care about what my weight was at all. I didn’t care to the point that I didn’t even want to know. This is the other end of the spectrum from obsessing about one’s weight, it’s just as destructive. We can say all we want about being healthy at any size, and I do think everyone should strive to be as healthy as they can at whatever size they are. But when it comes right down to it, it is simply not healthy to be 120 pounds overweight. It’s just not. Our bodies are not meant to carry so much excess weight and our organs are not meant to be encased in a thick layer of fat.
Weight loss, if you are obese is the goal. You should care about the number on the scale if it’s telling you you’re carrying an extra 100 pounds of fat. I’m not talking about the BMI chart or anything like that. Even when I didn’t know my weight, I knew I was much fatter than my body ought to be. And it was because I wasn’t taking care of myself the way I should have been.
Part of the way I manage my weight is to weigh myself daily. I never realized how much I rely on this tool. By weighing myself daily I have become accustomed to the fluctuations. What I didn’t realize is that the fluctuations cause me to slightly adjust my behaviors, like a sailor adjusting the sails to account for the direction of the wind. One of my Facebook readers called this “micro adjustments” – which I found apt.
It goes like this:
I see the top of my weight range, I drink more water and think twice about grabbing that second handful of almonds. I don’t have that glass of wine I’m thinking about. I skip the cheese in my salad. I push myself harder at the gym.
I see the bottom of my weight range, I relax. I have the almonds. Maybe I have the wine. I put the cheese in my salad.
I also use the scale to keep myself on track throughout the week, when I eat a little less and a little better. Then on the weekend, I relax a little and usually go out to eat with my boyfriend at least once. This pattern keeps me happy. I like having nice relaxing weekends and the trade off is having a slightly stricter week, which I don’t mind either. Everything is kept in balance.
That is pretty much how I have maintained my weight for the last year and a half.
Not weighing myself, I don’t think I actually gained any weight. Today, I weigh 171.6 which is within the range I was before the challenge. But I bet I did let my weight fluctuate to the top of the range more often and stay there longer. No harm no foul for one month. But for good? No way, that’s the recipe for me to regain the weight and I know that in my heart. I am really relieved to be back to weighing myself daily. It makes me feel secure and comfortable. I just want to be engaged and aware of what’s going on with my body. This is right for me and my experience, maybe not for anyone else.
I think there is a definite reason that so many successful weight maintainers weigh themselves daily. I don’t have a normal relationship with my reflection in the mirror. I just don’t. I see that clearly now and I think it’s one of the things I most got out of the challenge. I do need this affirmation that I am not regaining the weight I worked so hard to lose.
This doesn’t mean I think the scale is the only way to measure progress, happiness or success. I lift weights, I know that I have gained muscle in the past year. In fact, as the following pictures show, I clearly look much leaner and more toned now (right) around 170 pounds than I did around 160 pounds (left) six months ago.
Again this is all about my individual experience and what I need to do to maintain my weight loss as a formerly obese person. In my life, paying some attention to the numbers is definitely a good thing for me. It makes me feel more secure. It is a positive experience for me to chart my weight, not a negative one. Even discovering the high weight of 177 on May 1 did not negatively impact my mood, it just affected my choices. Even if I did gain 8 pounds, I was happy to know that, because gaining 8 pounds would be easier to deal with than 10 or 20 or 50 or 100. I was later relieved that it was just an upward fluctuation, probably related to the previous weekend of eating out and margaritas. Either way, I would rather know than not know. I use my weight to learn things about my body and how it reacts to different inputs, not to judge myself or affect my mood.
I know I still have more to learn.