Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why I'm NOT Trying to Lose Weight Even Though I'm Overweight

So, according to "THE CHARTS" I'm overweight.  Not obese...but overweight. 

For a long time, that bothered me.  I mean, REALLY bothered me.  I'd eagerly read up on every diet craze, try different things and constantly be wishing I could just lose 20-30 extra pounds. Every time I'd hear about someone losing weight, I'd get a pang of jealousy.  Every time I'd see someone who seemed to be "naturally" thin, I'd feel jealous. 

I don't let it bother me anymore.  I'm no longer constantly worried about trying to lose extra weight. 

I no longer care.  Here's why.

What about health? A lot of people claim they want to lose weight so they can be "healthy."  Yes, there ARE some people who need to lose weight for health reasons.  Yes, people who are extremely overweight, who have trouble with basic physical activities or who have health problems do need to lose weight for health reasons.  I'm not denying that.  There are many people who are at an unhealthy weight. 

But your typical size 12, 36-year old American woman (like me) who wants to lose weight to get down to a size 8, probably doesn't need to lose weight for health reasons. For's all vanity.  And not even vanity so much, but trying to fit a "mold" that society thinks I should fit.  Because "society" says that it's better to be a size 8 than a size 12 and that it's even better to be a size 6 or a size 4.  

But you know's not better to be a size 4.  It's better to be whatever your natural body type is....for some people that might be a size 4....for other people..that might be a size 14. And that's okay. 

A friend posted this picture on my Facebook wall the other day.

That's me! I was about 21 in this photo and probably a size 6.  Look at how skinny my arms were!!  I probably weighed about 115 pounds, which for someone 5'5" is considered normal.  But, at that time I WAS in fact underweight. I had a terrible diet. I wasn't having any sort of menstrual cycle at all.  And my mental health was even worse...I was "scared" of certain foods. Literally "scared" of them.  I refused to eat anything with more than 3 grams of fat in it. 

I'm way healthier now..both physically and mentally than I was back then...even though I now weigh a lot more.

Because weight and health aren't as closely tied as society makes us think it is.

People claim they want to lose weight so they can "have more energy" or "play with their kids more."

But, that actually has more to do with fitness than weight.  Fitness and weight are really not all that correlated.  I may be overweight, but I'm fairly fit.  I work-out most days a week.  I could run a mile if I needed to.  I can easily walk several miles at a time without getting out of breath. I can carry a toddler around on my back while walking several miles or even mowing the lawn. I can lift heavy boxes while moving. 

Sure, I can't run a marathon..but most people can't...and I have no desire to run a marathon, so I'm not worried about that all.  I have plenty of energy and ability to do all the normal things people like to do.  If I were so inclined, I could play soccer or baseball with my kids (but generally, I am not so inclined because I hate sports). 

What about diet? Here's where the real problem with losing weight comes in.  Losing weight essentially involves being in a calorie deficit. No matter how you do basically have to burn more calories than you take in.  And, there is a name for's called starvation.  Sure, most people who lose weight aren't literally starving and they don't end up starving to death.  But, it is somewhat likely that while they are losing weight, they aren't taking in enough nutrients.  It's EXTREMELY hard to get enough nutrients when you are on a calorie restricted diet (especially if you are already close to normal weight..I think it is different for people who are very overweight because they don't need to be as calorie restricted to lose weight)...and the greater the calorie restriction, the harder it is to get enough nutrients.

Being in a calorie deficit is not healthy and it messes with your head.  A long time ago, people were more likely to die from things like the flu. Some of that is due to lack of modern medicine, but I think a lot of that is simply due to the fact that people didn't have enough food....they were always in a "calorie deficit" so to speak.  It's harder to fight off illness if you aren't taking in enough calories.

Now...we have a surplus of food...but that causes its own problems because a lot of our food is really nutritionally deficient.  People eat a lot of empty calories. Even foods that many people consider "healthy" (like Raisin Bran) are really not all that healthy. 

We try to eat a (mostly) whole-foods, unprocessed diet. Fruits, vegetables, potatoes, rice, meat, minimally processed dairy (like cheese or homemade yogurt), butter, olive oil, coconut oil, chocolate (hey, it's healthy!), nuts, beans.  Some bread..but not too much..and ice cream on Sundays.   Yes, we do have treats on special occasions, but we don't eat a lot of processed foods on a regular basis. 

My philosophy of eating is to eat real, whole, unprocessed foods...and enough of it..with the occasional treat thrown in.  It just makes sense that's generally healthier to eat "a bit" too much food than to eat "a bit" too little and have nutritional deficiencies. Having a B-vitamin deficiency because you aren't eating enough is worse than having "a few" extra pounds on your body. At least in my opinion it is.  Now having LOTS of extra pounds on your body isn't so good...but a few really isn't so bad, and may be advantageous (like when Zombie Apocalypse occurs. ;) 

Plus, eating too little messes with your head.  Trust me..I KNOW. 

There was a classic study done in the 1940's where psychologically healthy, normal males who were put on a severe calorie restricted diet, developed binge-eating behaviors.  Other studies have also shown that caloric restriction triggers overeating.  And that has definitely been true in my experience.  Trying to lose weight and consciously counting calories in fact makes me MORE likely to overeat and fall into gluttony.  Not worrying about my weight or my diet or my calories in fact, makes it less likely that I will overeat and more likely that I will eat healthy food.  Because if I can only eat a limited amount of food..frankly, I'd rather eat chocolate than chicken. Just sayin'.  

Plus, trying to lose weight makes me cranky and fatigued and irritable. And nobody likes that. I'm generally happier if I'm NOT trying to lose weight. 

What about postpartum? Postpartum is a special time.  I do think that losing weight after having a baby is normal and healthy IF it is done slowly and gradually and without TOO much effort.  The weight is put on slowly for a reason (to nourish a baby and store up for breastfeeding), and I think naturally it does tend to come off slowly (with breastfeeding) as long as one is eating healthy and being active.  

So the final analysis? I try to eat real, healthy, nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods, get some exercise and activity every day and not worry about my weight or size. I try to be confident in that fact that if I do that, I AM healthy and am at the weight I am naturally supposed to be.  Which may not fit into what the "charts" say, but is just right "for me."  And, I'd rather have a few extra pounds on my body than have to worry about every single bite I eat. Because the less you try to eat, the more you end up thinking about food. 

So here I all my overweight glory with a couple of crazy kids posing too.  Arms are much fatter, but also much healthier.

P.S. A really great website for helping you improve your body image is My Body Gallery.  You can search by height/weight/clothing size/age and see images women have submitted of themselves. It's a great tool for getting an idea of all the various different body shapes and types women come with and how beautiful they can be.  (Warning..some of the pictures submitted are not very use your own discretion).  

P.P.S  This is just MY experience and how it relates to ME. I'm NOT saying that anyone else should or should not try to lose or not lose weight.  That's a personal decision that is up to YOU.  I'm just saying why I'M choosing to not worry about THE CHARTS or THE SCALE..and just focus on eating healthy and getting exercise. 

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  1. Bravo! I think you look great. :)
    I recently and very quickly gained thirty pounds. It is not healthy, and I need to lose it. But I will be a healthy size ten after I lose it!

  2. This post really resonated with me! I struggle *a lot* with body image and have spent my entire live struggling with my weight - sometimes too heavy sometimes too thin. After I had Abigail, I realized that I really needed to stop the destructive behavior because I do NOT want to model starvation as a way to loose weight to my girls. Still a daily struggle for me, but I very much enjoyed reading your about your experience. I'm impressed with your ability to discuss things so openly - I think it really speaks to how healthy your mindset is now.

  3. Healthy people come in all different shapes and sizes. Thin is just the current fad. Check out these old ads!

  4. I've been working very hard this (4th) pregnancy to keep my weight gain lower than the first three (55-65lbs each). However, when I entered my pre-pregnancy weight on one of those "how much weight should you gain during pregnancy" things, I was told I was obese and should've weighed 20lbs less than I did at age 11 -obviously, nobody takes bone density or other factors into account!

    I've also recently heard from my midwife that the new standards for pregnancy weight gain are "no more than 20lbs," which is ridiculous, considering different body types and caloric needs for milk production, baby growth, and Mamas health. Furthermore, she also said that drs want to check the blood sugar of all babies born 8lbs or above, testing for diabetes. I come from a large family of large people, and of 33 grandchildren born in the last 14 years, I think 3 of them have been under 8lbs, and not by much.

    It just sounds do crazy to me. But now I've ranted (sorry!) when I should've been patting you on the back for a good post.

    Jacqueline is right, you do express yourself very openly on your blog, and it's very refreshing. You never fall into the blogger bully catagory, even when addressing controversial topics, and for this I commend and thank you. TB

    1. "no more than 20 lbs" for pregnant is crazy. I have no idea how much I actaully gained with all of mine (I think it was in the ballpark of 40 lbs) because with the last 3, I was never weighed. I just told the OB or midwife that I really didn't want to get weighed each time, that it just stressed me out, that I ate healthy and exercised and they were totally fine with it. None of them pushed it (and this was 3 separate care providers) which makes me think they don't reallly care about it all that much themselves.

  5. Great post, Amelia, and you look great! I can definitely relate. I'm technically overweight according to the BMI, and even when I'm at my fighting weight, it's at the very tippy top of the healthy zone. I've always been unhappy with it and I've always been fighting it and I've only recently realized that I'm just fighting my body type and it's a losing (silly) battle. Furthermore, what does this teach my daughter? It's so much more important to model healthy eating and fitness habits. Oh, and by the way, what helped me really see things more clearly was reading these articles about how bugus the BMI is:

    1. Those are great links..thanks for sharing. I especially loved the 2nd one...very informative.

  6. I love this. I think comfort with oneself, comes with age and also is one of the gifts of pregnancy. It's hard to be too vain through pregnancy and the post partum period Our bodies have a purpose and I find that I am too busy to be that concerned.. Like you with healthy diet, breastfeeding and exercise it is a 9 months on, 9 months off situation. And I am totally ok with that. The rest of the time I am never skinny thin, but fall nicely into a fit size 10. Thats the best I can do and it allows me to eat bread, spaghetti and put cream in my coffee. Because seriously life is way to short. To lose that last 10 pounds I would basically have to starve myself. NO thank you. I think you look great and have a great hour glass figure. I would never describe you as overweight. EVER You actually look fit trim and healthy to me.

  7. You look GREAT in the pic you posted. God does not intend for our bodies to hold us hostage, so we should be enjoying them and taking care of ourselves - let it all even out once we do that.

  8. I'd rather eat chocolate than chicken too!! I always feel better when I am exercising and eating well - no matter what the scales say. My family eats very similar to yours. Would you please share what you eat weekly?

  9. Love this post! From a fellow 36 year old who is trying to wear an "extra" 20 pounds with dignity.

    Those ads Kendra posted were very interesting!

  10. Love this Amelia. It comes at such a good time for me. Thanks so much.

    My BMI entered the overweight zone recently and has gone up since then. I haven't weighted myself recently but my pants feel tighter and tighter and it's depressing. Unfortunately I've gained a lot in my belly, and due to unhealthy eating habits, so it's not a healthy "overweight." Still, I know I have higher priorities right now and need to address them first rather than getting obsessed with my weight. This is such a good reminder. Thanks again.

    P.S. You look fit and trim, you really do! BMI charts be damned. ;-)

  11. Love it, Amelia. You're right - the number doesn't necessarily mean anything. I do weigh every morning though - can you imagine what life was like before that silly scale was invented? Much better, I bet! ;)

  12. excellent thoughts and way to not give in to the pressures of society telling you that you have to be smaller, smaller, smaller all the time. I agree with you that the best lifestyle is one where you try to eat a healthy, balanced diet and get regular exercise. You are beautiful and I love your cute outfit.

  13. This is great, and you look great. I'd guess we're around the same size, so I should probably stop beating myself up, too.

  14. What - raisin bran's not healthy?! Say it isn't so!


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