Thursday, October 22, 2009

The drawbacks of losing weight

Yes, you read the title correctly. And perhaps you think that aside from underweight individuals and eating disorders, there couldn't possibly be any drawbacks to weight loss: it improves cardiovascular health, decreases a person's risk for a myriad of deadly conditions and diseases, enhances physical appearance and self-confidence, and more.

It is a well-documented phenomenon that individuals who lose a significant amount of weight (often through surgical means) are faced with unexpected emotional and social side-effects, and struggle with a persisting poor self-image, even after body normalization.

Of course, I don't have personal experience with the psychosocial effects related to extreme weight reduction. For that I am tremendously grateful. But my most recent deliberate efforts to improve my body composition have been successful, with drawbacks.

After gaining 67 pounds growing a seven-pound fetus, I returned to my pre-pregnancy weight exactly 9.5 months after giving birth. I easily maintained that weight for five more months, until I stopped breastfeeding, at which time the pounds crept back on. When I noticed I had regained 12 pounds in a year, I got serious and lost it, but not serious enough to maintain the result. Sigh. It is hard work, and my heart goes out to those with much more weight to lose, who could easily become discouraged by the prospect.

This past July I reached my highest weight since losing the pregnancy pounds. I have been exercising seriously and consistently throughout all these fluctuations. I do strength training and cardio at Curves, I run several days a week, I had been walking my hilly neighborhood pushing a stroller, and more. Since working out 6 days a week wasn't doing it, I committed to a generic calorie-counting plan using an online food journal at I lost about 6 pounds in a couple of months, and then in September joined my Curves staff in my challenge to complete a cycle of the Curves Weight Management Plan. This program was not only much easier to follow, but more effective as well.

I have now lost a total of 16 pounds in less than three months and weigh a couple of pounds lighter than I did when I got my driver's license at the perky-bodied age of 16. But here is the first major disturbance: My body looks nothing like it did at 16. The scale might give me cause to celebrate a number I haven't seen since before puberty, but the mass of uncooked pizza dough hanging below my rib cage speaks to me otherwise. Sometimes I gather it all up into my hands and fantasize about just slicing it right off with a knife. Of course there are doctors who will do that without such a bloody mess all over my tile floor. And if I can ever get approval from my sweet, loving husband, I might just be wearing the paper gown under those bright lights.

Why can't I tell my body from where to burn the fat? Why does my body think that breasts are less of a necessity than a muffin top? I've always had an average-sized chest, nothing to write home about. While I was expecting, however, I got to enjoy a set of Double-D's for a few months. My hopes of keeping them were dashed, though, as they shrunk to A-cups by the time I was finished nursing. That was small enough, thank you very much, but as I've lost weight recently, I feel like I might need to buy myself a few Hannah Montana and High School Musical training bras! Seriously, it's getting ridiculous. Maybe during my next pregnancy we'll have a few special months with boobs once again. (Yes, I said "we'll," don't you think I'm not the only one who misses them?)

Speaking of pregnancy, that's the next issue. I often wonder why I am making these sacrifices to slim down now when it's only a matter of time before I put my body through that most traumatic of physical changes, including weight gain, again. I guess I've worked with too many women who retained just 10-15 pounds after each pregnancy, compounded until they were 40 pounds overweight. I figure it's easier to return to where you started than it is to lose more than you gain during pregnancy. Also, I'd prefer to be in peak condition when embarking on that journey again, as I believe my physical fitness and body composition affects the entire experience and outcome. Lastly, I don't know exactly when the time to expand our family will be right, and I don't want to suffer the discomforts of flabbiness until then.

Another drawback, which is kind of a catch-22, is the way my clothes fit now. I am physically disturbed when my clothes don't fit right. It is an indescribable sensation, like nails on a blackboard perhaps, and is one of my primary motivations for losing weight. I just can't stand my clothes being too tight or a shirt that is too short exposing the flab above my jeans. The discomfort also applies to sleeves or pants being too short, so it's not just about my fatness. It's also about my longness. Anyway, I still have the awkward flat tire and muffin top to cover around my middle, above where my jeans sit, but the jeans themselves are now looking sloppy and loose. I don't like the way they feel or look, but I'm not sure the next smaller size would quite fit yet. And I don't want a tighter waistband to accentuate the "curves" above it.

(That's not me. Her boobs are way bigger.)

I am moving on with determination to conquer "Phase 3" of the Curves plan, which involves a higher calorie diet alternating with lower calories in order to raise metabolism (which slows during any diet--that is why weight loss eventually plateaus) without regaining the weight lost. After Phase 3, I'll be mentally prepared to make the commitment again after taking the "break" from dieting, and my metabolism will be revved up and ready to burn more. I just hope that what fat remains in my chestal region will be mercifully spared, while that around my belly is finally sacrificed appropriately.


Amber said...

This post of yours makes me nervous. I have come within 10 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight, and yet, my shape is all wrong, and my pre-pregnancy size? Well that's a different matter all together. I am impressed by your diligence to lose weight, however, even when you plan to expand your family again.

wiyaka said...

Well my friend, I'll just lay it on the table for you... it gets worse! Pregnancy #2 changed everything. When Lilly was 18 mos old, I weighed less than I did in high school. My skin even went back to normal! I'm afraid that won't happen again. So, I'm saving up to go under the knife! Mind you, it's only been eight weeks since Kylah was born (two of which I've actually been able to exercise). But even so, my skin and flab are completely different this time around. We'll see.:) You are incredible by the way! I love your drive and spunk. Keep working hard, it's better than not doing anything at all!

Bridget said...

So, pretty much I wish I wrote this post. I totally agree. And like the previous commenter said, it's a bit worse with #2, especially the tummy skin. I feel like I have to tuck it in sometimes (and just between you and me, garments don't help).

I have noticed that Pilates help with that skin. It doesn't make the skin go away so much as it strengthens the muscles that help you suck it in. How do I know this? Because I stopped doing Pilates when we moved and wow, I can totally tell the difference.

One more thing about the photo - it was funny to see that because holding a baby somehow emphasizes this problem area. Shudder. It seems like that is so unfair and I hate it.


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