Fat, but yet … happy?

Some of you know and some of you don’t know – I’ve been actively trying to lose weight for a year.

Last November, I joined Weight Watchers when I decided that it was time to get some help and support because weighing 177 lbs at 5’5″ with a BMI of 29.5 was too much. I asked my doctor’s advice and she agreed that I could afford to lose a few pounds, especially since I carry my fat on my belly which is the worst place in terms of getting things like heart disease. Just for the record though, I never thought I needed to lose weight from an aesthetic point of view. I’ve always thought that I’m pretty damn hot, and sexy as hell when I’m naked. I love my curves. But – because of health considerations, I decided to lose some pounds.

So I jumped on the bandwagon, and I lost 10 lbs fairly quickly. Then I stalled. And stalled. And stalled some more. Then I went to Europe, where I ate pretty much whatever I wanted, although I did choose salads and veggies over fries more often than not in restaurants. I walked quite a bit, more so than I do at home, but I also wasn’t doing martial arts while I was over there. I figured I probably gained a few pounds but lo and behold, when I weighed in when I got back, I had only gained one!

But then counting points became just too much hassle and I switched over to Sparkpeople where I counted calories instead. I started drinking my eight glasses of water a day again, and I lost five more pounds. But then it came back, bit by bit. I got tired from keeping track all the time. I got lazy. I just really wanted bread, dammit!

When I got the news about Glenn’s death, I threw the whole idea out the window. I ate what I wanted to eat, when I  wanted to eat it. Funnily enough, I still choose veggies more often than not. I don’t eat many desserts. I have binged on bread a few times but after denying myself for a year, I have a lot of cravings to make up for.

Interestingly enough, I seem to have balanced out at about 168 lbs. Five years ago, when I coughed up for a personal trainer to kick my ass into shape (before I started martial arts) I weighted 165. There’s this interesting idea of every body having a personal set weight that the body is happiest at, and it would seem to me that somewhere in the 160s is mine. Before starting WW I had been eating a lot of junk so I know that that last ten pounds was me being lazy about exercise, lazy about drinking water, and lazy about eating the right things rather than the wrong things. I think that’s why that 10 lbs came off so quickly – my body wanted to get back to its set point.

I’ve always been uncomfortable with people making comments about my weight. I ran into someone that I used to work with recently and she said, “You look fantastic! Have you lost weight?” I don’t think that these two thoughts should go together. I don’t think that commenting on another person’s weight should be considered socially acceptable, unless that comfort zone has already been established between those people. I hate the fact that in some circles, I am considered to have more value because I now weigh less.

I discovered the most amazing blog tonight, Shapely Prose. I have been reading through the back entries and the one that I want to share, and I really want everyone reading this to click on and read, is The Dog Theory of Fatness. It sums up the fucked-up-ness of the way our society views fat people in such an entertaining and succinct way. There’s also this link that points out the flaws in using the BMI as a gauge. Or go watch this slideshow that shows exactly what underweight, normal, or overweight looks like using BMI.

The end result is that I’m never going to be a whippet. I’m never going to be a chihuahua. But I am fit. I am healthy. I have quit smoking. I am learning how to run and how to love it. I can complete an hour long kickboxing class with minimal sweat and a quick two minute recovery time whereas a few months ago I would have felt like throwing up. I hold a brown belt in martial arts that I did not get by being lazy or unmotivated or any other stereotypical thought that people hold about others who carry more weight. I am not skinny. I never will be skinny. But I am me, and I am beautiful, and I am never going to associate my worth with a number on the scale again. What matters is how I feel, and I am the only person who can judge that.

I love myself, exactly the way I am. Which doesn’t mean that I’m not going to keep trying to be better. It means that it’s going to be on my terms, not the unhealthy thin-centric terms of this fucked up society that I happen to live in.

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15 Responses to Fat, but yet … happy?

  1. arwenoid says:

    *cheer*

    Quite frankly, weight always weirds me out. For example, reading your numbers, I think “huh. how?” And … the fact is, the numbers are irrelevant. I could certainly stand to be in better shape, and I’d like it if that extra chin thing went away, but … I weigh 135, which makes me feel guilty as hell for thinking anything bad about my “weight” negatively, but … I’m also ridiculously petite, so comparing myself to other people is stupid.

    I need to be in better shape, but I don’t need to lose weight. Weight is dumb.

    (If in the process of losing weight that little bit of extra chin went away, I wouldn’t complain.)

    • arwenoid says:

      Incidentally, according to my BMI, I’m still in the “normal” category. Considering my ridiculously petite frame, I’m carrying a little extra, and I’m in shitty, shitty shape…

      yeah, BMI is bullshit.

      • Erin says:

        BULLSHIT! Stupid, stupid bullshit that makes women (mostly) think they aren’t achieving the ideal. I should be 4.5 points lower on the BMI to be healthy. I would have to weigh 150 lbs to be 25 BMI. I would have to lose another 16 lbs to be healthy? How about – BULLSHIT!! (And completely unrealistic.)

  2. kinky_tink says:

    I know I’ve put on a few pounds in the last bit, but according to the chart I am “OBESE”…no not just overweight, but OBESE.

    Soooo here’s to making healthy eating choices and exercising to feel good, not to fit into a number range.

    Oh…and KUDOS to you, E…you look marvellous anytime!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Way to go! It’s not about the numbers, it’s how you feel that counts. You obviously feel great about yourself, beautiful and sexy. Many people would envy you for that (I know I do!). I consider myself ‘normal’ in terms of weight, although people sometimes remark I’m skinny. I don’t agree. I’ve had this weight for over 10 years now and as you said, this seems to be the weight my body feels best at.

    Dublin City Girl
    http://dublincitygirl.blogspot.com

    • Erin says:

      I think that if you are eating healthily and exercising and your weight stays the same, it’s because your body is at a good weight. If it’s “skinny” for some and “could stand to lose a few pounds for others” but you are happy and healthy, then that’s the right place for you.

      I have my moments of insecurity, just like everyone, where I think that if only I had a flat stomach then my issues would be gone but then I realize that that is just another form of bullshit and I push those thoughts away. It’s unrealistic for me to think that I could ever achieve a flat stomach. Being able to do over 50 full situps at once though – that’s a goal I’ve already achieved.

  4. dekucat says:

    Great post!

    I think what bugs me the most is the value ascribed to weight. Being skinny is the ultimate Good Thing, so if you’re looking good people will say “have you lost weight?” as a compliment. And if you say you’re overweight, people will hasten to reassure you that you’re not, as if being overweight means you are a bad person. And yep, I’m certainly guilty of that myself.

    I wish people would look at weight as a health thing, nothing more, and not ascribe any more judgement to being overweight than having a cold, or carpal tunnel syndrome, or any other physical malady. And certainly, also recognize that it’s more about fitness, activity and the way your body carries fat than a chart. In fact, the BMI could be a useful guide if looked at in that context. It’s more about averages and correlational data than anything absolute.

    I need to lose weight, but if I tell people that they often assume I’m being negative about my body. I certainly do have negative body issues, but the reason I need to lose weight is a simple health thing – I have fatty liver disease because I have a lot of abdominal fat inside where people can’t see it, and the easiest way to lose that fat is losing weight generally. I’m pretty sure from experience, ultrasounds and enzyme tests taken at different weights that another 20 pounds off will mean bye-bye fatty liver.

    It bugs me that because of all the internalized and societal stigma around weight, I look in the mirror or step on the scale and see the fat as unattractive, and that this motivates me at least as much as my actual health issues. I recently lost 10 pounds and have kept it off, but sometimes I find myself beating myself up over stopping and not losing the last 20 – and the negative cognitions swirling around my brain have a lot more to do with body image than the health of Lumpy Liver.

    I think the preoccupation of weight = attractiveness rather than health creates a really dangerous focus and emphasizes unrealistic ideals that discourage people from finding their own optimal level of health. The fact is, eating badly and not keeping in shape is a leading cause of sickness and death in the Western world(when looking at diet and exercise as preventative factors in many types of heart disease, cancer and diabetes), but as a society we’d rather ignore that and keep wishing we were unrealistically model-thin while sitting on the sofa and stuffing ourselves with processed food.

    • Erin says:

      I’m sure that my doctor would prefer for me to work at getting a few more pounds off, from a health perspective, but I cannot live my life measuring every piece of food that I put in my mouth. It makes me miserable and I think *that* more than anything would lead to illness in the future. If I’m healthy but a few pounds “overweight” (over what weight, exactly? the BMI that is bunk?) then I’m willing to take my chances.

      The thing about judgements over weight that really gets to me is that there are a lot of naturally skinny people who eat fast food and processed food and never exercise and sit on the couch all the time but because they are thin, they are not judged. An overweight person could be following the 8 Healthy Guidelines and exercise every day, but they get perceived as lazy or a slob because really, if they wanted to, if they just ate less, they could lose weight. It’s clearly because they don’t want to that they are fat.

      Again, BULLSHIT!

  5. rock_grrl says:

    Awesome! I totally agree that the body is happy at a certain point and doesn’t give a shit about what BMI says. I’ve been as tiny as 160 lbs and as large as 200 lbs. When I was 160 lbs, I was SO out of shape and weak (compared to my now very strong 180 lbs self). If I were to ever be smaller then 160 lbs, I would be *skinny* and have no muscle mass – which I don’t ever want for myself.

    At 180 lbs, I am strong and more fit then I ever have been before. I could stand to loose a few extra pounds of fat but I’m not going to loose any sleep over it or anything! 🙂

    • Erin says:

      Good for you. There are studies that are starting to come out that say that people who are in the BMI range of 25-30 live longer than other categories. That means those of us who are fit and healthy but with a few extra pounds of fat. Plus, I love my curves. I didn’t really an ass until I turned 20, but it’s one of my favourite body parts. As you can see, per my icon. 😀

      • rock_grrl says:

        Damn. That’s one HAWT ass.

        Ehm, what was I saying? 🙂

        I’ve heard that as well! I think when we look at diet, life style, fitness level, and over all happiness, BMI really has nothing to do with how healthy we are. According to the BMI scales, I am overweight. If I lost 10 lbs of muscle I would not be considered overweight anymore but I sure as hell wouldn’t be healthier for it!!

        • Erin says:

          That’s just it. To be considered a success at WW, I would need to get below 150. The range for my height is 135-150 to be within the “healthy” BMI range. And yet, if I weigh 168 now, then that’s 18 lbs that have to come from somewhere and I don’t think I have enough fat on my body for 18 lbs. Bye bye muscle mass. Sorry Sensei, I can’t do push ups anymore. I traded in my muscle for being skinny.

  6. booksnbeer says:

    A really interesting post and it’s thrown up a lot of good comments too. I also feel the need to lose weight, as since I ran the Vancouver half marathon two years ago I’ve done very, very little exercise and I’ve put on weight. However, it is mainly because I want to feel fitter and healthier in myself that I’m making more of an effort now we’re up in Squish. I am starting to feel better in myself but I know full well I need to exercise more to really benefit from it and that will make me heavier as, of course, muscle is heavier than fat. I’m trying to not get too obsessed by the bathroom scales and paying attention instead to how my clothes are/aren’t fitting. It’s so bloody hard to throw off all that negative bullshit that bombards us from everyone direction, so I’d like to give you a round of applause for having succeeded in doing just that.

    • Erin says:

      Thanks, babe. 🙂

      It’s funny – I bought a scale about two weeks before deciding that I didn’t give a shit what it said. Now it’s handy to have because I am weighing my cat to make sure that he’s not gaining weight (as I continue to try to figure out how much to feed him). But for myself – I just don’t care about that number anymore.

      I care how my clothes fit, and I care how I feel when I go to the dojo and we do some crazy cardio stuff and I care when I can’t do as many pushups as everyone else because my wrist is still a little buggered and my pecs aren’t very strong, but a number on the scale? Nope. Don’t care about that.

      How long is the Vancouver half marathon? That sounds amazing, since I’m still such a beginner runner – I can’t imagine running for any length of time!

      My only advice to you is concentrate on how you feel, and not how you think you should look. Not everyone can be a size 2 and trying to force your body to a particular shape that it may not be suited for is not conducive to health. So if you are exercising and it’s making you feel good then that is an absolutely awesome thing.

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