REAL Woman Wednesday: Ideal Weight?

I joined the gym yesterday. Like I shared a few weeks ago, one of the decisions that I made in terms of taking back control of my life was to lose weight. Not for some man. Not because society  thinks skinny is pretty. But for one simple reason, what I caught a glimpse of in the full length mirror as I changed into my bathing suit to take PanKwake swimming…disgusted me.

I have another of my confessions to make…as a teenager I struggled with bulimia. I had always been somewhere around a size 10 to 12. But that year, I decided no more. I went on a fad diet. I ate nothing but tuna, salad, tomato juice and sunflower seeds. Two meals a day. Coffee in the morning for breakfast and sunflower seeds any time I felt hungry.

I was working then as a cashier in a grocery store, so I could buy my own food. I ignored my family’s warnings too as I walked miles around the neighborhood.

And the pounds dropped away. In less than two months, I was buying size 6 jeans. A good 20 pounds, maybe more.

Skinny Teen
Skinny teen Tara

But oh what a cost! I ended up in the hospital. You see the stomach virus that the rest of my family, even my elderly Nanny, were able to weather easily, sent me to the Emergency Room where I was hooked up to IVs for several hours.

Years later after once again shedding pounds…this time over 50 of them in a more healthy way, I was training to be a personal trainer when I learned about set point theory. The idea that each of us is genetically pre-programmed with an ideal body weight. And that despite dieting and exercise, our bodies will constantly try to autocorrect to that weight.

Then I understood…as a teen and well into my thirties my set point was a size 10 to 12. That was my ideal weight. If I lost much below that then I looked gaunt and pale, as it had then my immune system weakened and failed. If on the other hand, I gained much beyond that, I became sluggish, depressed and my fitness level plunged. But in that range, my body functioned at its maximum.

Set point is the scientific explanation for diversity among Homo sapiens. Why some people are smaller and others are larger. But even within that there are upper and lower limits beyond which it is not healthy. Anorexia is pushing beyond those limits. No teen or adult is meant to starve their body to that point. Likewise no human body is meant to weigh 400+ pounds. Or likely even 300.

Most humans (exceptions being dwarves and giants) are meant to be somewhere between 120 and 250 pounds…dependent upon height. Within that range is everything from a size 6 to 16/18…maybe 20 for women. Variety for our genetic pool as well as sexual preferences.

Of course the other thing to remember is that as we age our set point can change. This is due to a slowing metabolism. Mine certainly has. My body these days works best at somewhere between a 14 and 16. When I looked in that mirror weeks ago though, I was squeezing my ass into size 20 jeans. Far from that ideal. And I felt it too. Not like I said because of any man or magazine, but me.

A few days later, I pulled out the Wii Fit that I had not used in close to two years. I discovered that while in my mind I was the same size I had been for years, I had in fact gained 24 pounds. I was appalled. How had that happened?

That answer was simple…my weight just was not a priority for me. Finding answers and solutions for PanKwake was. Writing was. Not my weight or even my health.

But suddenly when I looked in the mirror, when I stepped on that Wii Fit board, it became one.

I had the desire and motivation to change. And one thing I know about me…when I finally decide to change, I do it.

But as before I had learned my lesson from that silly teen, it was about LIFESTYLE changes and not fad diets. Gradual things mostly, though some immediate ones. So what were they, you ask?

  1. I kissed my Pepsi good-bye. I went from almost a 2 liter a day down to one can for a couple of weeks…to keep the caffeine and sugar headache away. Since then I have had coke…one. That was over a month ago and that one alone probably accounts for most of the changes I am beginning to most in my body already. It is also better for the environment (plastic bottles) and my budget.
  2. I started to eat breakfast. This has always been a problem for me. My idea of breakfast is three or four cups of coffee with loads of sugar. Speaking of which…I have eliminated most of that too, though I cannot go without it in my coffee. And while it may not be a huge meal, usually oatmeal or bran flakes, maybe granola in yogurt, it is enough that I can definitely feel it if I miss it. In fact, I had to stop writing this blog long enough for a bowl of bran. I can already feel my blood sugar beginning to correct itself.
  3. I virtually did away with bread, pasta and cheese. Especially white bread. I do on occasion have whole wheat crackers but that is about the extent of it. And cheese…well, I do miss that one. I may honestly eat pasta…once a week or so, but that is far less than before.
  4. I eat less meat and much more vegetables. If you think of your plate as a pizza or pie then over half of it should be covered in vegetables with only a small slice of meat and one moderate serving of COMPLEX carbs such as potato, sweet potato, rice or pasta.

The wonderful thing about it being lifestyle changes and not a diet is that there is not cheating as such. Yes, I finished off the Peanut M&Ms yesterday…the ones that PanKwake did not like. If this were a diet then I might find myself in slump, feeling like I had failed. But with a lifestyle change I say…oh well, one packet of M&Ms in six weeks…big deal! In fact, it is a reward…an occasional treat.

Is it working you ask? Not as fast as one of those silly fad diets. I honestly have not gotten back on that Wii Fit, but the mirror tells me the truth far more. And while I am most definitely not Snow White’s stepmother…I will never be slim…there is a slight change.

And now adding the gym and with summer coming and us getting out to walk more, I am certain that things are on the right track. That’s is what matters more…going in the right direction, not the speed at which you travel or the occasional rest stop along the way (like those M&Ms)…but going the right way.

I may never be even that size 10 again…because now that would be like that size 6 had once been…unhealthy. But I know that eventually I will get down to that 16…I already have reached an 18. Those 20 jeans now fall off of me. I may even carry on to that 14. I will decide based upon how well I feel once I achieve that first goal.

Because my weight like everything else about me is UNIQUE…my set point and no one else’s.

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