Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Okay so I'm fat. Now what?

(If you have trouble reading specific numbers of pounds, be aware that I mention them along with my own weight here)

So I'm having a lot of feelings that aren't really coming together into a coherent blog post, but I also kind of don't want to keep them to myself, especially in the time I have left in my parents' house. I don't want to find myself doing anything dangerous, like the time I basically refused to eat under my mom's watch after her comments about the potato thing, but I also don't want to be ignoring things that might need attention.

I knew I was getting bigger over the past year. I kept complaining about pants because they felt tighter than they used to, and I wasn't in such denial that I didn't know why. I don't think I was eating especially more than I ever did - at least, I wasn't eating much differently this last year of college than I think I did the previous three. And I was making a pretty good effort to exercise more, between yoga twice per week and walking 2-3 miles 3-4 other days out of the week.

I'm at home till Saturday after graduation, and finally had access to a scale, and decided it would at least be good to know. And somehow I gained 15 pounds.

I don't want to be that person who freaks out about relatively small amounts of weight. But. Maybe it's just that this is triggering a lot of hopeless memories. It's one thing to be 15 pounds overweight (at least according to the doctors who expect you to lose it) but it's quite another to be 50, or 80, or now near 100 over the 120 pounds that they told me I should be striving for my whole life. Even if I lost those new 15 again, there'd be more of them. Even if I lost 30 or 50 I'd still be considered overweight. I remember how hopeless I felt, especially as I continued to gain weight through puberty.

But maybe I've rationalized things the wrong way. I grew to accept cheerfully the idea that when I leveled my weight off in my late teens by not doing anything, it just meant I was done growing. I was 180-ish at that point. There was still a big part of me that said "well, at least you're not 200 pounds. Then you'd REALLY be fat!"

And then I got to college, and stopped being self-conscious about eating as much as I was. No one was commenting on my choices, and while I have worked to get more vegetables and fruit and new foods into my diet, I felt so freed by not thinking about it. I let myself have treats most nights. I let myself eat for comfort when I needed it. I started learning how big a difference it makes to use or drink whole milk than skim. I wonder now if I thought too little, instead of too much.

I don't know what the range of "normal" is, and I don't know whether it's a problem, or a normality or something to be aware of and watch out for if I went from ~180 to ~215 over the last four years. I look at myself, and I don't think I'm visibly that much bigger. In fact, a friend of mine complimented me the last time we saw each other that my arms were getting slimmer. Even as I had just gone out to buy bigger pants because I was tired of being squished into a size too small.

Should I be worrying? Should I not be having the daily desserts that I got used to? Should I just be keeping an eye to make sure something's not wrong with me? Is this just how big I am, is it normal to still be gaining at 21 years? Was the doctor right, and I really am going to just keep ballooning out for the rest of my life unless I actively lose weight? Is it possible I could go back to my size 16 and be comfortable in my old comfy jeans again?

I don't want to be freaked out, and I don't think I am. But I also am afraid of being in denial. I know that this is in no way, shape or form what Fat Acceptance is about, but I fear that the criticism is right - that this is an excuse not to think. That instead of exercising hard and eating right, I'm latching onto a movement that says I don't have to (even though FA and HAES strongly encourage healthful eating and regular movement). I'm afraid that I've been just plugging my ears and singing "la la la" instead of paying attention to my body, out of fear that it would do exactly this.

If anyone has any advice, I'd like it. Mostly, I just needed to get this out, so it can at least sit here on the blog and not be perched on my shoulder every time I try to have a meal in this house.


  1. In general I would say gaining 10% or so of your body weight over four years, at the end of adolescence, does not seem abnormal or odd.

    I'd keep an eye out, because there are a few medical conditions that can cause gradual weight gain over time (the two common ones I'm thinking of are insulin resistance and mild hypothyroidism). A doctor should theoretically be able to explore this, ask you some questions, order some appropriate tests, but many doctors are more interested in scolding over weight gain than figuring out the medical reasons, so you may need to hunt for a competent one.

    Your family's medical history might be useful (do type II diabetes or thyroid problems run in your family? both these conditions are genetic). Have you kept a record of your height during this time? (I grew an inch after I was eighteen.) Is it possible your exercising has put on muscle? (Muscle is denser than fat tissue, so acquiring muscle does increase your weight, even though it's good for your health.) There are a lot of possibilities. None of them are horrendously alarming; some are normal, some might point to a condition it would be good to keep track of.

  2. I haven't kept very close track of my height, but I'd have to check again. There is a history of diabetes in my family - my mom's grandfather went blind from it, and my grandmother has it now.

    I did learn that about muscle tissue (which I was going to go into if I do ever finally write that post on why I hate the Wii Fit so much...). Hard to tell if i've gotten that significantly stronger in 3-4 months of yoga.

    thanks for the reply though, it is encouraging. And at least these days, I know there's things I can do if there is a problem that aren't just "magically lose weight"

  3. If you have family history of type II diabetes, you may have inherited a propensity for insulin resistance. (This doesn't mean you will necessarily get diabetes, just that there's a tendency.) Insulin resistance can cause gradual weight gain, and it seems to be exacerbated by high blood sugar episodes, so a couple of suggestions that might be useful:

    - You may want to consider going lower-carb with your eating patterns. (That means, basically, somewhat less sugar and starch, more protein and veggies and fats. Also when you eat sugar or starch, it may be beneficial to eat it at a meal with a fair amount of fat and/or fiber.) No need to go nuts or start counting things or anything like that.

    - If you're inclined, you can get a blood glucose meter reasonably cheaply, and do a little scientific testing. Check your blood sugar when you get up, just before you eat a meal, and a couple of times after. This can help give you an idea whether there's a problem with metabolizing carbohydrate.

  4. (I should add that I'm not trying to diagnose you with anything here... I am insulin-resistant myself and I had gradual weight gain [over several years, not just four] which I now realize was an early symptom. But I had other symptoms as well as a family history.)

  5. oh, totally understand. It's something good to know to look out for. I appreciate the advice :)