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When the Mirror Lies

About three months ago, I wrote about body image, weight loss and a book I had read about how to dress so you looked thinner.  I mentioned that I was counting calories, trying to just lose a few pounds before my annual doctor visit in November.

I have always, always hated getting weighed at the doctor’s office.  I hate it enough that it’s kept me from going to the doctor a few times.  Even if I was just going in to talk to the doctor, they would weigh me.  Drove me crazy and stressed me out.

I didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself back in October; I wasn’t looking to lose a set amount of weight or anything.  Even two or three pounds would be great, enough so that I weighed a little less than I did at my check-up a year ago.  The funny thing is, my doctor really never mentions my weight.  She doesn’t berate me or try to get me to go on a diet.  If I fluctuate by a couple pounds, she never says anything.  The only time she ever mentioned it was when I had gained about 10 pounds over the year, and even then it was just a casual comment about watching what I ate.  It’s all in my head, this fear of being weighed.

At the time I wrote the blog entry, I was counting calories.  And by the time I had my doctor’s appointment, I had lost seven or eight pounds.  It was very exciting for me, the biggest loss I’d had since 2001, and my doctor was also enthusiastic in her casual way.  The weight loss and exercise also seemed to have a good effect on my cholesterol numbers, which was an added bonus.  (High cholesterol runs in my family and I’m on medication to control mine.)

Well, apparently doing the same thing for weeks on end helped me form a good habit as far as exercising and portion control, something I never ever thought would happen.  I haven’t been writing about it because I don’t want to come off self-absorbed, righteous or judgmental (something that tends to happen when people lose weight).  Also because it’s just something I do automatically now, so I don’t really think of it as being newsworthy.  But I had to talk about it today because finally, after 15 weeks, I have reached my first milestone and have lost 20 pounds.


Now here’s the weird part.  Before I started this, I would look at myself in the mirror and think I looked pretty damn good.  I knew that my BMI, at 31, put me in the ‘obese’ category; this didn’t matter.  I didn’t think I looked obese (I still don’t think I did, but according to the BMI charts I was).  You would think that now, at 20 pounds lighter – 20 pounds that should really show up on me, because I’m 5’1” and weight loss/gain shows up quickly on a short frame – I would be ecstatic when I look in the mirror.  Instead, I look in the mirror and think I look exactly the same.  I see no difference, even with 20 pounds gone and my BMI down to 27.3.

I didn’t take a ‘before’ picture because I never expected to keep up with the calorie counting thing.  I figured I’d slack off over the holidays (I started this the first week of October) or that I’d get complacent and tell myself that I know proper portion sizes now and I’d stop being so vigilant.  I never expected to set a goal weight and to keep at this.

Part of the reason I started this, besides wanting to weigh less at my doctor’s appointment, was because of that obese BMI number.  It really, really bothered me to know I was obese, even though I’d been at that weight for many years, nearly ten.  I had accepted my actual weight (which I’m not going to say, but let’s just say it was nowhere near 200 pounds).  I figured I was getting older (I turn 50 in August of this year) and my metabolism had slowed down, and I just had to accept that I was going to be a plump, short woman for the rest of my life.

But when I started calorie counting, my BMI was also included as a statistic on the website I’m using (Livestrong).  After I lost those eight or so pounds, I moved out of the obese BMI category and into the overweight category … and it felt so good.  So that’s when I decided to make a goal:  the weight where I fall into the upper end of ‘normal’ on the BMI chart.  I have 12 more pounds to go before I reach my goal.

Maybe when I reach that point, I’ll find some picture of me earlier in 2013, put on the same outfit and take an ‘after’ picture.  That is, if I can find a photo of me where I haven’t cropped out my body.  I hate seeing myself in photos.  Even now – we took some pictures at Thanksgiving, when I was about 15 pounds down, and I think I look horrible in them.  Like I said, I feel like I look no different.  So you will not see me bragging about my rock-hard abs (my stomach is still flabby) or my toned thighs (I have thunder thighs and probably always will).  But I might shout out a little ‘yay!’ here if/when I hit my goal weight.  🙂

I had pretty much been eating 1,200 calories and exercising daily – between 20 to 30 minutes of fast walking on my mini trampoline, about an hour after dinner (while we watch TV).  I throw in one or two days of weight training and I really need to start doing sit-ups.  I stalled for a long, long time, and then I gained two pounds.  I was freaking out about this to Dave – how could I gain weight?!  I was not cheating!  I was eating way below my basal metabolic rate.  It made no sense.

I was starting to think I’d have to eat, like, 900 calories a day – I could really see how people fall into an anorexic mindset.  It completely panicked me that I was gaining weight and didn’t seem to have any control over it.  What if all my hard work was ruined and I gained it all back, even though I hadn’t changed anything in my diet?

Finally I did some reading on how short people (under 5’2”) can lose weight.  I mean, when you’re short you need so many less calories than someone who’s, say, 5’10”.  How do people do it without starving?  I started learning more about that basal metabolic rate and realized I was putting my body into starvation mode.  I thought by eating 1,200 calories I would avoid it, but I was wrong.  As crazy as it sounds, I needed to eat more to lose weight and make my body let go of the fat it was holding onto in case I starved to death.  (Not likely!)  I upped my calories to 1,450 a day (I really should go higher, but it scared me … so I started with the lower number).  After I did that, I lost the two pounds I gained, plus another pound to give me that 20 pound loss.

I am really happy with this lifestyle – I just happened to find something that fits with my control-freak personality, and it’s something I can do forever so it’s not really a ‘diet.’  I eat all the same foods I always have but, man, I weigh everything.  I do NOT trust myself to eyeball a portion size!  I will always, always overfeed myself if I do that.  I’m not hungry.  We throw in pizza nights, Chinese food nights, etc. once or twice a month.  I’m not low-carb, gluten-free, vegetarian, paleo – I’m not even obsessing about fat content.  I just count calories and eat as much fresh food as I can.  Probably my only restriction is staying away from pre-processed and fried stuff.  I don’t have to, but I prefer fresh, homemade food and it’s easier to stay within my calories if I’m not eating anything fried.

I love walking on my mini-trampoline every night – my stamina has really increased.  I know it’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.  Exercise has always been my weak area – maybe now that I’m doing this small, daily amount I’ll eventually branch out into other exercise.

One of these days, maybe I’ll look in the mirror and see a different, thinner me staring back.  For now, though, I have to let my clothes and the scale reflect any changes.  My brain is going to take a while to catch up, I guess.

Lumps and Bumps

A couple weeks ago I got a book that had been on my Paperback Swap wish list for a couple of years:  How to Never Look Fat Again.  It had gotten some good reviews and I was curious about the advice; I was hoping to learn a few new tricks beyond the ones I already knew (e.g., black: yes, horizontal stripes: no).

Now, I know the only way to never look fat again is to not BE fat to begin with.  But let’s face it, I’m never going to be skinny again; the only way I can pull that off is to go back to disordered eating and popping diet pills like candy, which I refuse to do.  I’m hoping for a happy medium – to weigh less than I do now and (more importantly) to be fit, but to not worry if I weigh more than I did in high school.

I’ve done diets and food restrictions and all that, but what works best for me is to just be aware of what I’m eating and track calories.  The problem I’ve found is that it’s easier to track calories if you eat a lot of already-made, processed food or if you eat out at well-known restaurants that publish nutritional information.  When 95% of your meals are made from scratch, it’s a huge pain in the ass to figure out the nutritional content.  Sometimes I get lucky and the recipes have nutritional info already there; on the other hand, that only helps if I follow the recipe exactly and don’t make substitutions.  Most of the time I end up having to enter the entire recipe into a recipe calculator to figure out the calories.

It takes a lot of time, and that’s the main reason I stop doing it after a while.  But right now I have the extra time, and also the extra motivation of my yearly check-up in about a month.  What better time to watch my calories and maybe drop a few pounds, right?!  (I use either Spark People or LiveStrong to do my calorie tracking; this time around I’m doing LiveStrong.)

When you get older and you’re VERYVERY short, like me, your daily calorie allotment dwindles to hardly anything.  It’s even less if you’re trying to lose weight.  Right now I’m supposed to be eating 1,209 calories a day.  Let me tell you, it’s very easy to go over that without even realizing.  Once I lose weight, that number will go down even more.  When I lost a decent amount of weight a few years back (around 20 pounds, which gets me out of the ‘overweight’ category on a BMI calculator), I was down to about 1,000 calories a day.  I could definitely have stood to lose more weight but damn, I was freaking starving.  After a while I just couldn’t do it anymore.

I always exercise too; I’ve tried just exercising without restricting calories but that never works for me.  You have to exercise SO MUCH just to burn one calorie, and I’m not a jogger or runner or heavy-duty exercise nut.  I always have to restrict calories in order to lose weight; I exercise for the health benefits and because I feel better when I do, but never for weight loss.

Okay, so – watching what I eat, exercising, blahblahHealthyblah, but it takes forever, right?  And that’s cool, I know it takes a long time and I prefer losing weight slowly and keeping it off.  But that means I’m going to look like this for a while.  Hence the book – why not try to trick the eye into thinking I’ve lost more weight than I really have?

The book is divided into sections for all the problem areas most women have.  I looked at all of them except the Big Bust one – that’s never been my problem, never will.  It would be nice because big boobs would detract from tummy bulge but, alas, it’s not to be.  First I checked out the sections on thighs and belly (my biggest problems) and also checked out the arms section; I already know never, EVER to wear cap sleeves and I avoid tank tops like the plague.  I got some satisfaction when the author complained about the fact that most dresses are sleeveless, even though many older women have a bit of arm flap going on, even the skinny ones.  You always have to buy a separate shrug or something to cover up the arms.  Why not just put SLEEVES on the dresses to begin with?!  I wear a dress maybe once every five years, so luckily it’s not really a pressing issue for me; it’s just something I’ve always noticed and it was gratifying to see I wasn’t the only one miffed by the preponderance of sleeveless dresses.

What was most amusing to me was the section on belly bulge (another thing a lot of older women deal with, especially if they’ve had kids).  This has been the hardest thing for me to get used to; when I was younger, my stomach was actually concave a lot of the time.  I mean, I never EVER had a tummy bulge or had to deal with it when wearing clothes.  Even so, I’ve always been super sensitive about anything that clings to my stomach area; even when I was pregnant, I wore very loose tops and would never have dreamed of wearing the form-fitting tops you see pregnant women wearing nowadays.  (Not that it looks bad on them – it’s just not something I would’ve chosen to wear.)  After I had kids, I couldn’t wear an A-line or empire waist dress or top without someone asking me if I was pregnant; if I wore very fitted clothes, people would comment on my stomach.  (And this was back when I weighed about 115-120 pounds.)  I took to wearing leggings with big, loose cardigans or long knee-length sweaters over them, anything to hide my non-existent stomach.

Back in the day (happy birthday, Stacy!!) -- If I couldn't wear a sweater, it was an oversized t-shirt.  Hide my stomach at all costs!!

Me, Stacy & Dave, back in the day (happy birthday, Stacy!!) — If I couldn’t wear a sweater, it was an oversized t-shirt. Hide my stomach at all costs!!

Now I really have a stomach that needs to be hidden, and I can’t stand the clingy fabrics so many tops are made of these days.  What I wouldn’t give for those huge, long sweaters and cardigans to come back into style!  Sadly, the book had no real tips for me in that area.  The main thing, repeated over and over, was to wear support undergarments ALL THE TIME, EVERY DAY.  (The author favors support bike shorts.)  Now, I can break out the Spanx on a special occasion, but to hang out around the house?  I don’t think so.  She also recommends a belt, which is fine if you don’t ever want to sit down.

Actually, that’s my biggest tummy problem – I have lots of pants that fit and look great when I’m standing up, but they squeeze too much when I’m sitting down.  Nobody ever seems to acknowledge this on shows like What Not to Wear – they dress people in these fitted outfits that look cute when they’re standing up, but you know they’re busting out of them if they sit down.  Do these people never sit down?!

So I read the book with an air of resignation; much of the advice stressed support undergarments to be worn all the time, and that’s not what I’m looking for.  I did learn some brands to keep an eye out for as far as jeans (never at full price – I always shop at Goodwill), and she did convince me to try to move away from the oversized clothes I tend to wear.  I know it makes me look bigger than I really am; I am just so loath to have anyone see tummy bulge that I can’t resist oversized shirts.

Yesterday Dave and I headed to Goodwill; he had a 25% off discount card and I was thinking about upgrading some of my fall/winter clothes.  The first store was a bust; I was shopping one size smaller for shirts and that was just too tight for me.  We headed to the other store in our area and I scored – five shirts and a pair of dressier black pants for under $20.  It was kind of funny – I really felt like I was in an episode of What Not to Wear.  I’d reach for an oversized t-shirt and then pull my hand back, thinking, “No … I’m supposed to be looking for v-neck shirts, and not that big.”  I’m shooting more for clothes that skim my body but don’t cling, and pants I can sit down in without asphyxiating.  (One tip:  If you have a tummy like me, try Jag jeans – they fit well and have some give in the waist so you can sit down comfortably … but they don’t sag at the waist when you’re standing up.)

I’m also going to try to incorporate some minor heels into my wardrobe too, maybe with ankle boots or something.  I hate heels and, if given the choice, I’ll wear my Mizuno gym shoes all the time.  I know I have to suffer a LITTLE bit for beauty though, and I can definitely use an extra inch in height.  (I could really use an extra five inches, but I’m not that crazy.)

In closing, if you see me in person and I’m wearing a more fitted top than usual, you don’t need to ask … NO, I’m not pregnant.  🙂

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