Monday, March 08, 2004
Fear of Fat
posted by Julie |
Every time I say this, I make somebody mad, somebody who has yet to lose weight, who's struggling hard to lose weight, is despairing of losing weight. I understand that this message isn't jolly, isn't positive. But I'll gently remind my dear readers that this column is about my experience of finally losing a bunch of weight and working hard to keep it off. I need to tell the truth of this experience, or what's the point? It's not all jolly, folks. It's not always easy.
So I'll say it again: Losing weight is easy, keeping it off is hard.
After two years at my goal weight, I put on a few pounds this winter, and it's playing with my head. My clothes are snug. I'm counting calories and working out lots again, but the scale isn't moving. At all. I've managed to stop gaining weight, but I'm not losing it. And I'm frustrated.
The research bears it out, regained weight is harder to lose again. It's sticky stuff. It wants to stay put. It refuses to budge. I cannot drop my calories any lower without hurting myself or risking malnourishment. I exercise 6 days a week, and at a pretty good intensity, with lots of variety. The numbers are all what they should be for weight loss, but I'm not losing weight.
I know enough to know that any number of things could be going on here. I might be experiencing water retention at the moment. I am at the wicked early stages of menopause. I have put on lots of muscle.
And while I try to soothe myself with all of these logical explanations, and though I know that as long as the numbers are right, I'll see some movement at some point, this extra weight is breaking my heart, distracting me, making me miserable.
I'm not overweight, but I'm scared. Scared, a little freaked out, a bit overwhelmed by how easily I can gain weight these days and how hard it is to move it. Everyone warned me. And I listened, but the truth of it is more frightening than I expected. Remember the wormholes in the movie, Dune? I feel sucked toward the wormhole of my obesity.
And of course, writing to you as often as I do, while this is going on? Makes me feel a bit of a fraud, frankly. Who am I to talk about healthy living, weight loss, exercise, if I present a pudgy middle to the world? Look how people have exhumed poor Dr. Atkins to poke over his corpse. What am I setting myself up for? How can I write this column without striated deltoids? I know. I need to give readers more credit, but we're not talking to my reasoning head. We're talking to my panicking heart.
I may need to adjust my expectations. It could be that I lost too much weight, too low a weight for my body to maintain. And if that's the case, alright, but where will it stop? Where is my "set point," if there really is such a thing?
So here is the cautionary tale, friends. This is what comes of focusing a bit too closely on a number. I'm at my healthiest state in years, but I'm miserable because of a number on the scale, a pair of jeans. The lump in my throat that won't clear away is being driven by my stats, while I'm able to run miles, lift more weight, do more pushups, than ever in my history.
Three years ago getting out of bed, pushing up from my chair, meant facing pain with courage. Today nothing hurts except my pride.
As a wise reader said to me recently, "It's not about the bikini." She meant, it is about health. It's about achieving the best health we can hope for, given all other variables.
It's not about the bikini. It's not about the bikini. It's not about the bikini.
I'm going to put my scales away for a month and ride this one out while I train for a local 5K run in May. I'm going to try to take it easy. I'm going back to my breathing exercises. I'm going to enjoy my healthy body today.
Does gaining a few throw you completely out of your saddle? That's not a good thing, poopsie. That's disordered thinking, right there. We do gain and lose weight naturally, as a reaction to seasons of greater and lesser mobility, hormonal shifts, and most especially, as a response to stress. Heaping more stress onto weight gain by freaking out about it works entirely against us.
Journal assignment for the next time weight gain or the interruption of weight loss has you freaked out: What is it about your weight that scares you? Spend some time thinking about what you've been going through lately. Has it been a rough time? Have you been afraid, anxious for any reason? Overworked? Sad? Angry? Are you actually overeating or under exercising? These last two are the easiest things to fix. The stressors may be temporary, but if they're not, consider getting some counsel from a friend or professional to help ease them. Consider, too, whether your relationship with your scale could use a cooling off period.
Regain studies, National Weight Control Registry
Stress and weight gain, Melissa Stöppler, M.D
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