Friday, April 12, 2013

Fat vs. Fit

I am about to talk about something that I don't normally talk about.

My weight.

Just thinking of hitting the "publish" button on this post makes me nauseous.

It really is terrifying to put this all out there publicly, but I think it is important all the same.

In May of 2011, I graduated from Nova Southeastern University with my M.S. It was also my 4 year wedding anniversary, and I was planning a surprise wedding vow renewal for my husband. Because I had so many important events going on, I struggled with finding the right outfits to wear. And suddenly, I couldn't deny it any longer.

I had let myself go.

No. I had SERIOUSLY let myself go.

I've always been a bit overweight... but on two occasions, I shed the extra lbs and actually saw myself the way I really wanted to be. Once in 8th grade (when I was on a strict vegetarian diet and ate everything with chopsticks for over a year), and the second time as an adult after graduating from college and working for about a year. When I met my husband in September of 2004, I was at my lowest adult weight. At 5'6 I was a size 8 in skirts or dresses (though most times I needed a 10 in pants to accommodate my butt and thighs). I settled comfortably at around 172-175 lbs, and while the weight charts that doctors use to determine ideal body weight indicate that 160 is really the max of where my weight should be... I knew better.  At one point I had gotten to 164, and you could see every rib and bone jutting out of my body. No thank you.

So when I met my husband, I was healthy and happy with my body image. I got married and was hovering around 180. I look at the photos from our wedding (when I wore a size 12 in pants) and am in shock at how thin I actually was.

And how fat I had become.

Flash forward to 2011, when I was about to graduate with my Masters degree. I spent an entire day looking for dresses to wear to the numerous upcoming events, and that evening I went to dinner at a friend's house. My friend didn't speak a lot of English, and was more comfortable in her native tongue of Arabic. We were talking about the difference between wedding customs of the U.S. vs her home in Saudi Arabia.... and I pulled out a photo of me at my wedding to illustrate that not everyone in the U.S. wears a solid white bridal gown.

Oh Amy! she gushed. You look amazing! That dress is stunning. And you were so thin!!! 

And then after a brief pause, she quietly asked, What happened?

She didn't realize what she had said. And certainly there had been some meaning lost in the cultural and linguistic translation.

But it still stung.

Later that night, I cried. Not just a couple of single tears.

Big, messy, sloppy, alligator tears.

What had become of me?

Now here is a little math problem for those who might like to work their brains. I gained about 25lbs by the time i lost my job in 2009... part of that weight gain was the weight gain that people tend to have when they are happy in new relationships... part of that was from the depression over being in a job that was not healthy for me. Then I gained another approximate 36lbs between the time I went back to school in 2009, and the time that I had my wake up call.

Even at my heaviest weight in college, I never weighed this much. And while I saw the scale registering higher and higher numbers, and I had more and more difficulty fitting into my clothes, I was in denial. I went out and bought some size 14, then some size 16s. By the time I had this reality check, I had given up jeans altogether, in exchange for something less restrictive (like yoga pants), because that way I wouldn't notice the pain as I grew out of them.

The Monday after my ugly cry, I went on Weight Watchers.  

And you would think that the weight just fell off, but it didn't. I lost about 15lbs in the first couple of months, but then the weight loss just stopped. I was eating right, and starting to take care of myself but I was still not as active as I could have been.

8 months after starting Weight Watchers (January 2012), I saw Ray finish his first half marathon, and I decided that maybe I, too, could run a half marathon.

And so I started training. And the scale slowly started to move again. The experts recommend that people losing weight aim for no more than 2 lbs per week of loss, but I felt myself getting discouraged. At a rate of just half of that 2lbs per week, during 2012 I should have lost 52lbs.. or almost all of the weight I had put on over the years.

Instead, I lost 10. Bringing my grand total for almost 2 years of weight loss to 25lbs.

I still have a long way to go.

Or do I?

If you've been following along with the math, you've figured out that during my weight gain since meeting my husband, I've gained a total of  61 lbs and gone from a size 10 to a size 16 (or more because I stopped wearing clothes with this sizing system). And because you are excellent at math, You will also know that I have lost a total of 25lbs.

But the math doesn't add up. While I haven't seen the scale move in months, I've watched my clothes become more and more baggy, and I have tried on clothes that I held onto over the years hoping someday I would shrink back into them.

The size 12 shorts that I couldn't button on New Years 2012? I wore them 2 weeks later (after my first half marathon), they were really snug in the legs, but they buttoned (barely). Those same shorts? They now have about an inch of play in the waist, and are baggy on my butt and legs. And yet, the scale. Hasn't. Budged. If anything, I've actually GAINED a couple of lbs since then.

What is crazy is that I am 30 lbs heavier than when I bought those shorts, and they fit me better now!

Before people go telling me that muscle weighs more than fat so it makes sense that I am heavier fitting in the same clothes, lets not forget that I was VERY active in karate the last time I wore these clothes. I was in excellent physical condition back then too, so why the difference?

In the end, I'll have to chalk it up to one of life's great mysteries. And I guess it is one of life's mysteries that I'll have to be ok with.

Don't get my wrong. I still want to lose the rest of this weight and drop another 30 (ish) lbs. I realize that I may never go to the doctors office and have the nurses say "healthy" instead of "obese" based on some arbitrary chart, but I'd like to get my numbers down.

I went to the doctor on 3/27 for a followup. You know, bloodwork, bloodpressure, cholesterol, pulmonology, etc.

And he said I'm healthy again.

And that is the important part.

I'm looking good, I'm feeling good. I'm healthy, I'm active. I could probably work to lose some more weight, but my weight no longer poses a danger to my health. It will come with time.

Just like running a half marathon, I have to remember not to push too hard too fast. Weightloss is a distance event, not a sprint to the finish.


  1. From that chart (which I've seen in several variations, but all approximately the same numbers), my target at 5'8" would be 146. Um, yeah-not. I'm aiming for 165 instead as my ultimate goal. Maybe once I get there the goal will change, but I'm thinking that's not likely.

    I hear ya on the letting yourself situation exactly until I started running. It creeps up on you and suddenly-BAM! You look at yourself in the mirror and wonder what the heck happened. I sure did.

    I'm proud of how far you've come (((HUGS)))

    1. the thing i've come to learn is that while the charts may be a decent goal, they sometimes are quite arbitrary as they don't take into account the density of your bones or your muscle mass. you aim for whatever goal you feel most comfortable aiming for. any change for the positive should be celebrated as a move in the right direction.

      but from now on, i know i am going to try not to beat myself up for not fitting this arbitrary mold. I am going to be fit, and focused on being fit. and let the numbers just be a guide. as long as i feel good and my health isn't in danger, the numbers on the scale "aint no thang."

      I am proud of how far you have come as well. we celebrate next month at Disney, then next january, we REALLY celebrate!

      I look forward to participating in this journey with you.

  2. Look at me, I was at 135 when I lost all that weight. But look at the pictures. That's in my perfect target range. I looked disgustingly thin! I'm more comfortable now at 165 than at that weight. I think I still need to lose some pounds, or at least start to tone up like you have. (Not going to do marathons like you though! Go you!) I think ideally I should be around 150.

    I'm happy for you!

    1. thank you so much kim, we all have to get to where our body is the most natural. and I am actually a strong believer that if you take care of yourself, and you eat right and get the right amount of exercise (barring underlying medical issues of course, or medications or other situations that would make you gain because i've been there and done that too) everyone's body will naturally settle into the right range for them. I've seen people get "too thin" for their frames... and in the end, not only do they look sick and not feel healthy, but they can't maintain longterm.

      I don't care about looking good in certain clothes. i want to feel like i look good when I'm wearing clothes or when i am naked and just seeing myself in the mirror.

      for me, its not about how others perceive me, but about how i perceive myself.