?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
16 August 2005 @ 10:27 am
thoughts on weight, weight loss, fitness, and health  
I've been thinking about this post for a while. Weight and weight loss (or fat and fatness) can be a hot-button issue, so caveat lector behind the cut-tag. When I weighed more than I do now, I'd more often read articles and essays on weight--headlines and subject lines jumped out at me--that churned up ambivalent thoughts. Sometimes I'd feel as if I'd read an article at "the wrong time," a time when I didn't want to think about the subject in a personal way.

Actually I still have ambivalent thoughts, which are behind the cut-tag, but on the whole what I'm saying here is, losing weight has made me happy, and if that seems like a bone-picking topic, please don't feel like I'm goading you to click. I'm just talking my thoughts.



Recently I've been thinking about the positive things I notice from losing a lot of weight. I have other issues that are hard to disentangle from the weight issue, mainly drinking and depression. Some effects attributable to weight loss--positive effects on my mood, health, and energy level--could also be benefits of sobriety, antidepressants, and therapy. But the weight loss is important to me. It's not from insane dieting; it's from working on the way I eat and working out. I'm talking about health and fitness, movement, exercise; but weight loss is a part of that.

Positive effects from exercise and losing weight:

* A lighter sense of body. It's easier moving through space. It's floatier. I'm more aware of being a stretchy, moveable animal, in a good way.
* Less stress on my feet, ankles, and knees. I'm less prone now to turn my foot and twist my ankle when I'm simply walking down a flat stretch of sidewalk.
* I don't feel a grinding weariness when I contemplate just walking home from my bus stop.
* I don't exhaust myself climbing the hill to my apartment building, and have to pause halfway.
* The summer heat used to make me nauseated and dull and utterly miserable in my skin. It could knock me flat. On bus rides, I'd either be a brainless zombie or a seething murder waiting to happen. It doesn't bother me much anymore, and not to the same degree.
* I can walk four blocks to the grocery store, and carry groceries home. Before, I'd always, always, always take my car, and the idea of walking for this type of errand was honestly horrifying. Like someone saying, "Hey, you want to come with me to boot camp tonight?" And you look at them like they're crazy.
* Cheekbones.
* Dropping six dress sizes. Getting rid of frumpy old clothes that I always hated.
* The numeric measurement of pounds coming off. There used to be this commonplace dieter's rule: "Don't watch the scale!" Which is good advice if it's going to make someone miserably obsessed. But I've started to see articles saying, "If it motivates you, go for it." When I sense I'm losing weight, I go to the gym with even more excitement, anticipating that moment of getting on the scale. (I don't have a scale at home.)
* Looking in the mirror and seeing visible evidence of my body being reshaped by my efforts.
* No longer feeling the self-conscious need to wear layers all the time. I used to always, always, always wear two shirts: a basic shirt and the unbuttoned long-sleeved "overshirt" that hid my arms and waist. This is probably one reason why I'm less prone to heatstroke now in the summer.
* Wearing sleeveless shirts.
* Knowing that even when I have periods of cookies and gelato and utter inertia (i.e., periods), I can exercise again and rebalance my diet. It's not all-or-nothing.

When it comes to improved energy and stuff like that, I can't just point to weight loss; my energy is still erratic; so is my mood. I still don't sleep well, generally. My blood pressure is still high; but there's a good chance it will go down as I lose more weight. I hope that's the case.

All my ambivalencies about fat and weight loss have to do with other people. This is true right now. When I weighed more, I was ambivalent about fat, period. I wanted to believe every article that excoriated the diet industry and the perils of yo-yo diets, and explained how fat and health weren't mutually exclusive, and how the medical definition of obesity was skewed--articles that described an obesity myth and how negative thinking about fat could chip away at our self-esteem. At the same time I'd read all those other articles about the rising trend of obesity and sedentary lifestyles, highlighting whatever new, horrifying health risk was linked to them that week.

I wanted to embrace a fat-positive philosophy, but I couldn't do that personally. I could embrace it abstractly for friends and for strangers--beautiful fat women I saw on the street or in photos: Go, you! Fat is not evil! But I personally identified with all the fat women I saw who looked unhealthy and desperately unhappy, buried in their flesh and not wanting to be there. Because frankly I felt like shit. That was also the depression and drinking, but it was weight too. I just don't like being overweight. And I don't care about some generic definition of overweight. I'm not wading into a political mire: I just mean overweight for *me*. I know when I'm overweight, and I'll know when I'm at a happy weight. I might reach it in another twenty pounds, or thirty, or forty. I don't know yet. I'm not thinking of that weight as a fitness stopping point. That's one of the problems I used to have--thinking there was a beginning and end date to getting fit. That whole "goal, not journey" fallacy. I just want to feel good and keep exercising--shooting baskets and maybe running some day--and so on and so on.

So, anyway. I think there's a lot of truth in the pro-fat articles, and truth in the pro-weight-loss articles. The middle ground where they overlap is health. I think that both sides--when they define themselves as sides--agree that exercise and eating right are Good Things. When I was heavier, though, I tried hard to gloss over that message in any Yay!Fat article I read, and focus fixedly on the "fat is beautiful" part, so that I could accept myself without having to do the exercise or eat broccoli. As if "fat is beautiful" was a frame of mind that could trump all my health and happiness concerns through sheer force of self-will.

I hope it's obvious that I'm not dissing anyone else's fat here, or their fat joy and pride. I'm also not saying that if you feel like crap, you should go exercise. When I didn't want to exercise, I just didn't want to exercise. And when I started to exercise, I really, really fucking didn't want to exercise. And if someone suggested that I should keep going and that it would get easier, I'd think, "Shut the fuck up." And then I'd go lie down for a few weeks. I have a problem doing things before I'm ready to do them. And I'm bad at talking myself into doing them. Mostly I sit and fume and despair, and then one day I'll suddenly do the thing I couldn't bring myself to do by thinking about it or willing it--like exercise. And then the next day I won't do it, and I'll flagellate and hate myself, then I'll eventually trip sideways into doing it again.

(And after all this I'll tell my therapist, "But I can't *make* myself do things--it always just happens!" I still dither with power versus powerlessness. And meanwhile I put off paying my bills and doing my laundry.)

So really, I'm not someone who can give self-help advice, except maybe to say, "Do it by design and by surprise."

And I of course have worries like: "What if I stop staying fit and can't bring myself to start again?" And "What if I break my knees and can't play basketball and have to go into physical therapy for months and months?" Or "What if a serial killer breaks into my place tonight and I don't die at peak fitness?"

I wrote these thoughts last night and I'm looking over them this morning; I feel like there was more I wanted to say, but I need to do worklike work stuff now, so I'm just going to toss this out there.
 
 
 
Malmalnpudl on August 16th, 2005 05:36 pm (UTC)
I have a problem doing things before I'm ready to do them. And I'm bad at talking myself into doing them. Mostly I sit and fume and despair, and then one day I'll suddenly do the thing I couldn't bring myself to do by thinking about it or willing it--like exercise. And then the next day I won't do it, and I'll flagellate and hate myself, then I'll eventually trip sideways into doing it again.

(And after all this I'll tell my therapist, "But I can't *make* myself do things--it always just happens!" I still dither with power versus powerlessness. And meanwhile I put off paying my bills and doing my laundry.)


Damn, this sounds familiar? Are you sure you're not me?
Beth Hbethbethbeth on August 16th, 2005 05:41 pm (UTC)
God, I ws going to say the same thing! *g*
(no subject) - roquelaure on August 16th, 2005 05:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sisabet on August 16th, 2005 06:59 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
witlingwitling on August 16th, 2005 05:47 pm (UTC)
"What if a serial killer breaks into my place tonight and I don't die at peak fitness?"

Hee.

Thanks for posting this; this is very helpful. I have my own issues with fitness and body image and self-worth, and I try periodically to extricate myself from them, with varying degrees of success. It's great to read about someone else's process with this stuff.
Beth H: Bears CircleBear (blunaris)bethbethbeth on August 16th, 2005 05:52 pm (UTC)
I really like this response you're having to weight loss, because yeah, being fat's not the end of the world and a lot of people actually look great when they're overweight and are happy being overweight...even *very* overweight. But I'm not so in love with being overweight myself (for so many of the reasons you mentioned) and yet? You couldn't pay me enough money to get my ass off the couch at the moment.

But still? From my perspective (i.e., the 'sitting on the couch' perspective *g*), it's still cool to hear someone saying "Yeah, that was me too, and then it wasn't, and that change is part of what is making me happy right now."

kaydee23kaydee23 on August 16th, 2005 05:55 pm (UTC)
I have the same problem about making myself do things.

I had a cancer scare four years ago, and at that time, the gynecologist excoriated me over all the weight I'd gained. My mother died of lung cancer in 1998, and it really depressed me,and I gained a LOT of weight.

Anyway, my weight has been waaaaaaaaay down and a little up since then. I then I get pissed off and lazy for awhile. For the last few months I've been taking long walks and trying to just be sensible about eating a variety of healthy foods. My weight isn't where I want it, but I think I'll get there eventually.

I too have issues with the "It's okay to be fat," and then "No, it's not okay." And then, "You can be too thin and exercise too much," or "No you can't!" It's crazy-making.


squeeze me, stomp me,  make me wine: DS - RayK alluremoosesal on August 16th, 2005 06:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting this. I especially liked your comment I just mean overweight for *me*. I know when I'm overweight, and I'll know when I'm at a happy weight.

I'm overweight, but I have friends whose weight problems are much more severe than mine and I always feel odd saying that I'm cutting back on sugar and being more conscious of what I'm putting in my body when I'm around them. Part of that is knowing that at least some of them resent the face that I'm trying to change my body when I'm already in better shape than they are. And part of it is my own insecurity about offending them. There's so much tension there. If I say that I'm fat when I weigh 100 lbs less than person X, what am I saying about her?

Kudos to you for wanting to be healthy and for seeing how your life is better based on the decisions you've made. And congrats for knowing your body and deciding what's the right size for you based on how you feel, not just on a number. Hang in there!
julia_herejulia_here on August 16th, 2005 08:38 pm (UTC)
I'd bet, though, that part of it is also the automatic reaction, after howwever many years of fighting the fat fight, that you are suggesting that they would be better off if they did the same; whether or not it's what you mean, it's what we've heard so many times we hear it every time someone thinner than we are mentions food at all.

Julia, already on a diabetic diet, and having to keep a running count of calories in my head all day
(no subject) - moosesal on August 16th, 2005 08:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - julia_here on August 17th, 2005 12:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - moosesal on August 17th, 2005 01:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Kasskassrachel on August 16th, 2005 06:07 pm (UTC)
I think most of us put off paying bills and doing laundry. Bills suck and they are scary.

Someone very close to me has been moving through a similar headspace to yours, I think -- he hasn't lost weight at this point, but has started changing how he eats and has started exercising several times a week -- and I think it's changing the whole way he moves through the world and the way he feels about his body. Which is so cool to watch. Because he's still a big man, and pretty much always will be, but being fit makes a huge difference.

Also, yay sleeveless shirts!
rubywisp: the pan is back by sporked iconsrubywisp on August 16th, 2005 06:08 pm (UTC)
(And after all this I'll tell my therapist, "But I can't *make* myself do things--it always just happens!" I still dither with power versus powerlessness. And meanwhile I put off paying my bills and doing my laundry.)

Adding my voice to the chorus of "Me too!". I've been having a real tough time working on this one, but I've been trying to go at it sideways, so to speak, because I'm tired of the cumulative effects (physical, emotional, monetary, housekeeping-wise) of having this attitude. (And it just occurs to me right now that while I work on it for everything else, maybe some of this "but I don't want to *have* to!" has been transferred to fandom and writing, and may explain some of my lack of recent participation and production.

Huh.)

Thank you for sharing, lovely Anna. You always make me think, and it's always good.

<3
in search of a clever byline: Speed Racer10zlaine on August 16th, 2005 06:12 pm (UTC)
I have my fat issues, too. In fact, I've gained back nearly 20 lbs in the past two years merely because I stopped exercising consistantly. I don't eat worse, but I'm less active since I've worked at the university. I'm trying to change that before school starts again...

However, what good *has* come from working at the university, is that the student I transcribe for is a nutrition major. I've been sitting in on some very enlightening classes. I mean, if you want to know the truth about health and nutrition, these are the people to listen to. Not those who trumpet the latest fads. Those in nutrition study the body and metabolism and all that good stuff down to extreme cellular function. If you want the answer to what's best to eat, you have to study the way humans have evolved. You have to take a bit of exercise (be less sedentary), and you have to eat what your body biologically needs for fuel...it's how we evolved. And, shortchanging your body, nutritionally, is what screws us up. That's why the food chart changes--it sort of incorporates the latest info.

You should be pretty damned proud of yourself for keeping this going as you have. everything has ups and downs, but the important thing is to stick with it, because at the end you're generally healthier and happier. It's so hard when the media and population in general tries to tell you differently, but that's our culture.

What if a serial killer breaks into my place tonight and I don't die at peak fitness?

Well, for one, you won't care, but hey? Given that, upon death, you'll excrete body waste--not to mention how your endocrine system should kick in--at least you might lose a couple of pounds in that process...
Herself_nyc: HelloKitty is me!herself_nyc on August 16th, 2005 06:13 pm (UTC)
I wanted to embrace a fat-positive philosophy, but I couldn't do that personally. I could embrace it abstractly for friends and for strangers--beautiful fat women I saw on the street or in photos: Go, you! Fat is not evil! But I personally identified with all the fat women I saw who looked unhealthy and desperately unhappy, buried in their flesh and not wanting to be there. Because frankly I felt like shit.

You express so well what I've struggled with myself for years.
In fact, I identify so much with everything you say here, because obviously I'm doing the same thing--losing 6 clothing sizes and surprise surprise, finding it's a lot easier to move and just to be.

I admire you tremendously for all the caretaking you've done for yourself. And my God, I think I wouldn't know you if I saw you again, because the way you describe yourself, you're utterly changed from how you were that time we met. We MUST get together again.
caia: Penguin whee! by caiathisficklemob on August 16th, 2005 06:19 pm (UTC)
One: go you. It sounds like you've reached a healthy place emotionally and mentally in regards to your own weight, as well as becoming physically healthier.

Two: my own experience agrees with so much of this. Especially the parts about having entirely different takes on my own overweightness and other women's, the part about feeling lighter in space, and the part about having to be ready, regardless of external proddings. Of course my being ready also had to do with being medicated so I could lose weight... but even after that I went down and up a few times before the weight loss became steady. (I partially blame that on college – dining hall + stress =...) But it reminds me of something a professor of mine said about graduate students writing their theses... he said some of them just hit this sticking point where they can't continue, and it's not because they don't know where they're going... it's just because they have to make this internal adjustment so that they can view themselves as someone who can write a 100 page paper. And once they make that shift in their self-image, they're fine.

Losing weight has been like that for me at times. Like I don't really believe I'm a person who can be this thin (comparatively), or thinner (my own healthy weight is also 20 or 30 or more pounds away). In a way I have to adjust mentally to where I am periodically in order to renew my efforts.

I also like having cheekbones... and collarbones. I also like my biceps, because that's one muscle I can see evidence if I've been exercising it. *g*
WesleysGirl: Firefly2wesleysgirl on August 16th, 2005 06:22 pm (UTC)
It's so complicated!

I'm very grateful that the boy is a boy and not a girl. I was so worried about passing on my massive self-esteem and body issues to a girl (not that I'm not worried about passing on negative stuff to the boy, but it's a different level of worry.)

Personally, I find the whole topic dicey. It doesn't seem like there's any way to discuss it without someone being upset, but I also think it's one of those things that needs to be discussed if we're going to take away some of its power. About 9 years ago, I lost 50 lbs, going from 165 to 115, a size 13 to a size 6, in four months. Losing the weight wasn't hard -- well, it was, but not impossible. What was hard was keeping it off. I exercised every day, drank two pots of coffee a day, and had to keep under 1000 calories if I wanted to stay the same weight. I weighed myself many times a day. And being thinner, I was surprised to discover, didn't make me happy. It made me obsessed and jittery and miserable. Sure, I felt better about my body some of the time, but on the whole, I was still unhappy. And disappointed. Losing weight hadn't been the miracle fix for my life that I'd been led to believe it was.

Anyway, I finally figured out with the help of a therapist that my eating was very disordered, I started to eat normally, and the weight came back on. Then I got pregnant with the boy and gained lots more, etc. I'm currently the heaviest I've ever been, but lately I've been eating healthier because I *can* and *want to*, not because it's a way to do penance for being fat or a way to force myself thin and therefore acceptable and worthy. For me, I had to get a few steps closer to 'I deserve to be treated well' before I could make changes, instead of the other way around, which is what I'd always struggled with before.

It's such a hard road, but like everything else, I think that how you get there is as important as the final destination.
kaydee23kaydee23 on August 16th, 2005 06:35 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. I did what you did a few years ago. I went on a healthy eating, very low calorie kick, and I went from 175-180 to 128. I think I had exercise anorexia. I didn't look good or feel particularly good, but I did love getting into those skinny jeans. Now, I've gained some back, but I'm trying to be more sensible about everything.
(no subject) - wesleysgirl on August 16th, 2005 06:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eliade on August 16th, 2005 06:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
julia_herejulia_here on August 16th, 2005 06:29 pm (UTC)
I'm with you on the fat and body-image ambivalence: I hate my body right now, especially the way it FEELS when I'm at this weight. But I also know that there is no point in abusing myself or others with the party line on weight loss: eat less, exersize more, and it will become apparent immediately that you are walking the road of virtue.

Becuse it isn't true.

I am fat now because, between puberty and about the age of 21, I was severely depressed and untreated, because I was almost certainly already diabetic, and because I was a compulsive eater. That means my pounds are, for the most part, 35-40 years old, and I've spent most of that time struggling to not gain more weight. Even when I was in my twenties, smoking a pack of Camel Straights a day and living on Espresso, I rarely dropped below 200 pounds (at which weight I wear size 13 dresses); getting back to that weight is a goal that people don't understand.

Loosing weight is my job; all I want is not to have to listen to people who have never had a weight problem tell me how easy it is to loose weight; all I want is not to hear rude little girls giggle at me while I shop, all I want is to be treated politely. Believe me (not you, apostrophizing the world in general) if humiliation and pain were sufficient stimulus to get me thin, I'd weigh 132 pounds right now.

Julia, actually, I did weigh 132 pounds (at 5'5") the first time a doctor put me on a diet...
WesleysGirlwesleysgirl on August 16th, 2005 06:46 pm (UTC)
actually, I did weigh 132 pounds (at 5'5") the first time a doctor put me on a diet...

Yup, this was me. 5'5" and 135 when I went on my first diet. I wasn't fat (although I had gained a fair amount of weight, at least 15 pounds, in the year prior, because of puberty) but my parents kept telling me I was. I lost weight, gained it back +2 lbs, rinse and repeat for many many years. And my fat to muscle ratio is WAY higher than it was when I was a teenager. Yo-yo dieting is evil, and until I can find a way to very very slowly lose weight without gaining it back or depriving myself, I'm staying fat.
(no subject) - julia_here on August 16th, 2005 08:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ruthless1 on August 17th, 2005 05:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
RivkaTrivkat on August 16th, 2005 06:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks for these thoughts. Since I started weighing myself (I tried not to for many years) I've always been heavier than I look, and felt embarrassed by that, as if I were getting away with something -- not to mention that I was getting the same "unhealthy" messages as you were. Since I've gotten pregnant, I've gained over 30% of my prepregnancy weight -- and still five weeks to go -- and it's given me tremendous respect for people who manage to fight the fatigue that's a simple consequence of additional weight. What you said about heat and short distances is the converse of my experience, as it gets harder and harder for me to walk outside the few blocks from the subway to my office; I only hope I'll be able to see the other side the way you have.
Minim Calibre: Lillianminim_calibre on August 16th, 2005 07:18 pm (UTC)
As an OT word from the trenches, the weight will come off faster than the inches. I've been back to pre-pregnancy weight since about 8 weeks post-Lillian, but I'm still not back into pre-pregnancy shape, or anything close to it. Like you, I look thinner than I am, and my proportions are the same, so I still look about 20-30lbs lighter than the scale would indicate (my mother was gobsmacked when I told her I was 180lbs), but the tape tells me I'm still about 3" larger all around.

Last night, when I attempted some sit ups, I realized why, and boy, do I feel silly for not looking at the exceedingly obvious. The stomach may have stopped feeling like a loose sack, but that doesn't mean the muscle tone magically came back on its own.

Try to have healthy ready-to-eat options around at all times the first few weeks, or else you run the risk of being like me, and weighing time against hunger and just grabbing a cookie because food prep with a new baby is a lot harder than one would think.



Tuesday Has No Phones: TeaBQthebratqueen on August 16th, 2005 07:06 pm (UTC)
I had something similar when I did my latest adjustment to my eating habits. What struck me was stuff like Super Size Me, where you get this realization that we eat a lot of things for no good reason. Not even a reason like we're in a bad mood and chocolate makes it better, but because we get into this mode where we keep putting food in our mouths and don't even know why.

And to me that struck me as being very silly. It's not about fat vs. thin, but about having self-awareness. And I decided to be more mindful about what I was eating. I wanted to learn how I was actually supposed to feed myself. No radical dieting, no banishing cookies to the ends of the earth never to be seen again, simply finding out how I should eat, and doing so accordingly.

But it's funny, because doing stuff like that does bring up the weight loss issue. If you come from a fat positive mindset you can feel like you're betraying the movement, or that now you've bought in to the skinny=good brainwashing.

But the flip side is why should I eat 3 desserts a day just to prove I'm a feminist?

Argh. I'm at work and therefore too distracted to make any of this coherent. But yes, what you said.
caia: Sinfest Convenience storethisficklemob on August 16th, 2005 07:51 pm (UTC)
But the flip side is why should I eat 3 desserts a day just to prove I'm a feminist?

Oh my god, yes. That shit drives me insane. My mother used to be the one putting me on diets as a child even when I was only slightly overweight... and the diets were all wrong for me, although she couldn't have known that. Then after she came out as a lesbian when I was 15, she gained a bunch of weight, seemingly to resist the patriarchy's beauty standards. Um... where was that liberated mindset when you were a healthy size 12-14 and dieting and making me do Jane Fonda videos with you in the living room? When you were making sure I'd hate the shape of my own body?

And I think on some level after that she wanted me to be fat too. She started buying these creme pies every time my brother and I came over, even though none of us liked them, when our entire lives our family had rarely had dessert other than on special occasions. "I am free – therefore I will eat junk all the time!" It was just so hypocritical, since she had given half my body complexes up until that point. And of course it was me eating and cooking healthy – and banishing the junk that would tempt me from the house – that later made her lose much of that weight, basically without even trying.

These schizophrenic attitude changes make it very weird for me now to get compliments from her for losing weight. She said something to me about being skinny the other day – even though I'm still at least 20-30 lbs overweight. It's like, "I supported you up until now, but any thinner and you'll be giving in to patriarchal beauty standards, oh noes!" (Bad feminist! Eat a cookie!) I really didn't know how to respond to that kind of compliment/veiled criticism, so I flashed her my belly. The flab made her backpedal on the "skinny" nonsense. *g*
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - thebratqueen on August 17th, 2005 03:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - mei_x on August 17th, 2005 11:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thebratqueen on August 18th, 2005 12:11 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mei_x on August 18th, 2005 12:17 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thebratqueen on August 18th, 2005 12:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thisficklemob on August 18th, 2005 03:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thisficklemob on August 18th, 2005 04:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thebratqueen on August 18th, 2005 01:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thisficklemob on August 18th, 2005 06:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thebratqueen on August 18th, 2005 06:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thisficklemob on August 19th, 2005 01:43 am (UTC) (Expand)