Thursday, August 19, 2010

I can't see myself

Quite some time ago, before he was a well-known humorist, Dave Barry wrote a book called Stay Fit and Healthy Until You're Dead. In the book, he had a little bit on whether or not women should lose weight. There may have been a chart of a table of some sort which evaluated whether women should lose weight. It said something like:
Big: you should probably lose weight
Medium: you could stand to lose some weight
Small: you should consider losing weight
The joke was that, no matter what size you are, if you are a woman, you should probably lose weight. Since Mr. Barry was, in part, lampooning the fitness industry, this type of humor was all too apropos.

This situation came to mind for me as I've found lately that I cannot "see" myself at all anymore. Initially, it was easy to see bodily changes, but it is getting harder and harder to tell the difference. To me, I've gone from, "so huge I can't look at myself" to "so huge I can't stand to look at myself" to "so huge that it hurts to look at myself." My body image isn't changing at all in any positive way in my estimation. Today, I was thinking that I'm looking like Humpty Dumpty, with an egg shape sitting on legs. I can't even see where I'm losing any weight anymore.

To this end, I find myself looking to the scale for affirmation (though not acting on the impulse most of the time) that progress is being made. I'm not looking at it to validate me, but rather to verify that things are going as they should. While I firmly subscribe to the idea that actions are the true measure of success as they naturally breed success, I'd be trying to fool myself (and everyone else) if I tried to say that the results weren't what I really want. After all, without visible weight loss and changes in appearance, I will never escape the prejudice and abuse that I receive for being fat, and that is a strong motivator for me. It is second only to health improvement in my reasons for losing weight.

The truth is that I knew the day when I'd have to start actually weighing myself regularly would come. Somewhere in a past post, I mentioned that I expected that when I got under 250 lbs., I may have to resort to the scale to ensure my continued progress because I figured a slowdown would occur at a certain point. That is, I knew that my basal metabolic rate (BMR) would start to drop such that I would have to continually tweak my behaviors to make sure my weight loss pace continued as I want it to. Mainly, I need to know when the slowdown occurs so I can add activity in or reduce calories a little more.

To give some idea of what I mean in a more concrete manner, at my starting weight of around 380 lbs., my BMR was about 2400 calories. My BMR at 300 lbs. was around 2050 calories per day. At my current weight of 240 lbs., it is now about 1790. When I reach 200, it will further drop to about 1600 calories. While I don't expect to keep at my current loss rate of between 2 and 2.5 lbs. per week, my plan was to lose an average of a pound a week after I reach 200 provided that I have a year ahead of me before making a big change in my life (which requires me to find a new job) to accomplish it. If I don't reach 200 with a year in front of me to lose the last 50 lbs., I'll have to make further changes to speed things up a bit.

All of those silly calculations aside, I'm finding that my inability to tell that I'm actually losing weight anymore is factoring into this as well. I try to derive as much gratification as possible from the success that comes from carrying out the day in a manner which is conducive to my goals, but that can't be all of it. Even I have to have some external indicators that progress that is physical and not psychological is going on. Much as I try hard not to focus on it excessively, I do need at least a little bit of it.

My situation is not helped by the fact that I have bought exactly two new pieces of clothing (two bras) since the start of all of this so I can't really see a different body easily. I'm throwing out the oldest, biggest things which are too absurd-looking to wear now, and altering the (formerly) tightest ones to be smaller as well as borrowing T-shirts from my husband's wardrobe to tide me over. I still refuse to spend money on clothes that are of an interim size.

I've decided that at this stage, I will rather reluctantly start regular weighing once a month. I've decided to start as of October 1 with this and see how it goes. If the number starts to have any sort of emotional impact on me though, that idea is going right out the window. I will not get on the scale roller coaster ride and allow it to manipulate my emotions. That being said, I do need some sort of measurement (and frankly, I'm too lazy to dig out a tape measure and do it the other way) to "prove" that progress is being made since the non-scale victories have become rather difficult to see now that I've realized that I have a form of body image blindness.


Fat Grump said...

Like you, I don't want to be bound to the scale, but given all I see is podge when I look at my body critically, I see the (occasional) use of the scale as a good thing. I don't jump on it regularly because my progress has been so slow. I'd be disheartened if I actually had to track the small fluctuations - both up and down. 'Dieting' and the pursuit of weight-loss really can mess with one's head, that's why I tend to avoid the scales. I tell myself I am 'living healthily' - which might be a cop-out, or a euphemism for lack of dedication :) I think you are wise. We do sometimes need concrete proof that what we are doing is working. I hope you'll be encouraged by your monthly weigh-ins.

screaming fatgirl said...

I'm still skeptical about what a monthly weigh-in will do. I still believe it's really arbitrary and largely irrelevant, but I can't see any other fast way around this. Some people take their measurements, but I really can't bear the thought of taking the time to measure my waist, bust, hips, thighs, arms, and calves even once a month just to prove something or other.

I guess I'll see how it goes. ;-)

Thanks for your comment. :-)

Anonymous said...

I allowed the numbers on the scale to mess with my head for awhile, so I quit weighing for a bit. Then I returned to regular weighing when I realized I was staying the same size for many weeks (as indicated by the fit of my clothing). That's when I had to face the fact that I would have to cut calories to 1200 if I want to continue losing, even very slowly. Fortunately, I have a girlfriend who has an extensive network of people from whom she acquires rummage clothes, which she then passes along to me. Thus, although I've lost 60 lbs this year, I've only had to buy one pair of pants (and that was just for my own vanity). YAY! (At heart, I'm a saver, not a spender).

I often stay the same weight for 2 weeks, and sometimes it goes up as much as 5 lbs for no discernable reason before settling back down. At 1200 I'm losing about 2 lbs a month. The *official charts* say I *should* lose at least 65 more lbs to be at the low end of *overweight*. LOL. Not. Gonna. Happen. :)

But I'm making peace with the numbers on the scale, and--more importantly--peace with my body. After all, it's just doing its *job* the best it can. It has got me this far in life although I've treated it quite neglectfully at times. All in all, I'm grateful it performs as well as it does. :)

Best of luck to you with your new experiment. Remember, they are just numbers. It is quite strange how much they can vary in a short amount of time. And yet fascinating, too. :)

NewMe said...

Wow, I detect some seriously disordered behaviour in the offing and I really hope it doesn't go any further.

But first, the positive. I'm glad for you that you have the Internet. Living in such a hostile, fat-phobic environment is extremely wearing. North America is going bananas over the so-called obesity epidemic, but at least when you walk out the door of your home, you can still see people of all sizes. You (SFG) need the support of the "outside" world and to know that your readers are all rooting for you and that we have great respect for you.

I would caution you to never go below 1500 calories. The lower you go, the more your body will desperately want to conserve energy and your metabolism will slow to a snail's pace, thus making it even harder for you to lose weight. Starving, or overly limiting your caloric intake will ultimately keep you from reaching your laudable goal.

I'm going to break my comment up into two parts to make sure it goes through.

End of part one.

NewMe said...

Part two:

So, if you can't starve yourself into weight loss, the only alternative is to up your exercise. As someone who is limited in what she can do, I can now see just how easy this is for a relatively healthy person: add an extra half-hour of walking or biking per day. Arm yourself with an i-pod or MP3 player and try and tune out the nasty stares. Let's be frank: people who stare are pigs. There are no doubt many fine aspects to the culture in which you are currently living, but that does not take away from the fact that they are boorish pigs when it comes to size-phobia. Tune the b*stards out and move your body, baby.

Here's a suggestion that might make you fall down laughing. If it's totally impossible, forgive me my naiveté. Is there any way you can a)afford and b)find a personal trainer to get you started on a home exercise programme? This may be totally impossible in the land of fat-o-phobes but hey, I'm trying to think outside the box for you.

Although you say you don't want to, I strongly suggest you take your measurements once a month. They mean a lot more than the number on the scale. Hold your nose and do it.

And finally, get some new clothes, girl! You cannot wait until you reach some mythical number on the tape measure or the scale. Start learning to love yourself now, as you are, or you will never learn. There are lots of mail order options for "fatshionistas". "Big Fat Deal" and "The Rotund" are two blogs where they talk about fatshion a lot and provide useful links. You are beautiful now. Let that beauty be seen, for yourself and for your adoring husband. Even for us, your fans.

Florida Food Snob said...

Wow! Already down to 240 - 200 is oh so close. Can you taste it? ;-)

screaming fatgirl said...

Greetings to all and thanks for the comments!

Rebecca: Once I reach a certain point, two pounds a month would more than satisfy me, but not quite yet. I don't think I could go down to 1200 again (as I did one day a week when I was starting out). I'd probably just end up staying where I was if it came to that. That's just more than I believe I can tolerate day-in and day-out for long periods of time. So far, I'm been fortunate because I haven't had to do that.

NewMe: I must say that your comment caught me by surprise. Honestly, there's nothing to worry about. I'm not going to develop an eating disorder. All of my goals are very much within reason - 240 lbs. now and I want to weigh 200 by March of 2011. That's 40 lbs. in 7 months, which is very reasonable at that weight range. It's also a big step down from what I have been losing in terms of rate.

Currently, I eat 1400-1600 calories per day, walk 30-90 minutes, lift a few light weights, and I'm just starting to add in a few little calisthenics here and there (very few, very here and there). My main plan is to step up activity rather than to cut calories, but there is no denying that as one gets smaller, things slow down and there is only so much time, energy and physical flexibility I have. Even if I found a personal trainer (which I don't want to), they couldn't make my body do more than it is capable of. I'm creaky, and I hurt easily. I have to gently expand my movement borders.

I appreciate that you're pulling for me, as are my other readers, but you can trust that there is no eating disorder in my future. I love food too much, and I don't want to eat very little. I just want to reach the highest end of the healthy weight range for my height before returning to my the U.S. I realize that the numbers are arbitrary, but I'm going to need to get a job and insurance when I return. Being within the healthy weight range will mean something to that end, and I don't think it's going to mean I've lost too much weight if I'm 5' 4" and weigh 150 lbs. (for the first time since elementary school, if I make it) by late spring of 2012.

Also, I do have my husband, and he would be the first to step in and stop me if he thought there was any risk to my health and well-being. He's a sensible person, and he's trained in psychology as well.

And honestly, if I don't reach 150 lbs., I don't. I'm not going to torture or starve myself there. I'm certainly not going to go below 1200 calories. As it is, I don't like it enough that several days ago when I found myself at around 1100 and not very hungry, I made myself eat more because I'm very wary of metabolic damage from eating too little. My main plan is to add in activity, but at my age, that may not be enough at some point. For now though, things have gone very smoothly, and according to plan. Perhaps this makes me feel like I can just plan and things will go on as always and I'm in for a shock. ;-)

FloridaFoodSnob: Actually, I can't taste it, just as I can't see it. :-( It all feels miles away still. I think that my brain isn't catching up very well to the changes. A big part of the problem is the disproportionate weight loss. My hips, thighs and buttocks are this large mass of hanging flesh (sorry, that's gross, but true) which refused to budge much. No one is going to look at me and think I'm "close" to anything, including me!

Thanks again to everyone for so kindly taking the time to comment!

-Maura said...

I have recently found that not only do I have an unhealthy relationship with food, I also have one with the scale.

I do think it is important to know your weight and won't ever encourage you to not weigh yourself on a regular basis - whatever regular basis will work for you.

That said, I will encourage you to find other ways to measure your progress. Are you stronger on your walks? Is it easier to do certain things that use to be almost impossible to do? Key in on the changes you FEEL and acknowledge those.

And, if you can, get yourself some clothes that fit. Well fitting clothing does make a huge difference and if you can see that difference and keep it in perspective (I didn't and am struggling now), it can serve as a motivator to keep going when you may want to give up.

Congrats on your progress!

re said...

Wow, the uncanny way which I can identify with your writing is reaching an almost absurd level. And now the Dave Barry reference? Excellence! My Dad used to read this book (as part of Dave Barry's Guide to Life collection) to my sister and I as bedtime stories. Just another reason to creepily attach myself to your blog, I guess. :)