walking around in tap shoes and pyjamas since 2010 - my cycling log (opens in new window)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Weighing In on Weighing In

Historically, I haven't kept a scale at home, because there was a point in my past at which I became obsessive about my weight (two of them, actually).  I've generally gotten by squeezing in a weigh-in once a week at work or the gym, if that.

When I moved in with DD, there was a scale here already -- a nice digital one that's totally painless to use and probably more accurate than the old hand-calibrated spring-dialed model my Mom had.  At first, I didn't want to use it: in part because I was worried I'd wind up obsessing again, and in part because I wanted to ignore the numbers associated with my weight and use other factors -- how my clothes fit, how I look, how I feel on the bike, etc. -- to keep track of my weight and conditioning.  Quite a few people suggested that it would be a better method for me, given my tendency to obsess.

Recently, though, I figured out that I am utterly incapable of using the 'feel how things fit' method.

First off, when I look at myself in the mirror, I always think I look fat.  I thought I looked fat when I weighed 120 pounds, which -- even though I'm roughly 5'8" tall and given the fact that my bone structure is pretty light -- was anything but.  I thought I looked fat at 135 pounds, at 160 pounds, at 175 pounds...  At 180 pounds, I simply stopped looking at myself in the mirror.  When I weighed 163 pounds around the turn of the year, I didn't think I looked that much different than I do right now at 175 (again) -- I just thought I looked fat.  Period.

When I look at photographs, I can see the difference.  Both my first and second boyfriends were photographers -- one professional, one simply an avid hobbyist -- and I modeled for both of them.  It takes the objective eye of the camera for me to really see what I look like, and even then, my own psychology gets in the way: I once picked up a picture of a skinny, gaunt, obviously-underweight young guy and was profoundly shocked when I realized it was a picture of myself at 120ish.  The experience was a bit revelatory; it's an image I return to every time some little voice in my head wonders why 135 needs to be the absolute lowest limit for me, weight-wise.  I don't think it would've gone down quite that way, had I known when I first picked up the picture that I was looking at myself.

Likewise, I have trouble assessing my girth based on how my clothes fit, since I almost never like the way my clothes fit in the first place.  To some extent, this is the direct result of spending my formative years deeply involved in gymnastics and ballet, both athletic pursuits that literally reshape the skeleton if pursued from a young age.  They also develop muscles that few other activities do, especially in the hips, thighs, and calves.  Thus, it can be challenging to find trousers that are really comfortable.  The fact that I'm deeply self-conscious about my body probably doesn't help, either. 

Moreover, I'm one of those lucky (or unlucky) souls who distribute fat evenly over their bodies -- which means that by the time I jump up a pants size, I've gained significantly more weight than someone who packs the pounds on primarly around the belly or around the hips and thighs might have.  The same is true for weight loss -- just as I gain pants sizes more slowly than 'apple' or 'pear' types, I lose them more slowly, as well, so using pants size as a marker of weight loss is discouraging at best (besides which, I hate shopping for clothes, so unless I happen to have the 'next size down' on hand, I won't replace them until they're super-loose, and thus will continue to consider myself to wear whatever size I was wearing before).

I realized not long ago that, for me, tracking actual weight -- as unreliable a statistic as so many make it out to be -- is necessary.  It's also motivating.  It's cool to be able to track the downward progress of my weight at the same time that I'm tracking improvements in my lung capacity, resting heart rate, recovery time, and strength.  Likewise, tracking should give me a better handle on what I'm doing wrong during those periods when I 'mysteriously' balloon up.

Right now, most of the time, I weigh myself two or three mornings per week in an effort to keep my native obsessiveness at bay.  I don't think this will be too much trouble as long as I keep making progress.

I do worry that as I approach my goal, I will be tempted to move said goal.  DD's one stipulation about my weight-loss program is that there must be an end point: he, too, is concerned that things could get out of hand, and wants me to stay healthy.

Right now, I have both a mid-point target -- 160 pounds -- and an end-point target -- 135 pounds.  160 has begun to seem very achievable; as for my end-point target ... I think I would be okay with 145, actually.  I may set that as a second 'mid-point,' with an eye towards making it the end point if I start having blood-pressure issues and so forth.  The idea is to increase both health and performance, neither of which would be aided by orthostatic hypotension.

I've penciled in 400 training hours over the next year (starting next week, with a short week of 3.5 hours, since we'll be in Chicago Thursday through Sunday), which amounts to between 6 and 9 hours a week on the bike.  I'm interested in seeing where a more organized approach to training takes me.

Speaking of which, it's time to go give the bike some love.

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