Sunday, July 15, 2007


Women don't often discuss their weight. I was once at lunch with a group of male co-workers when, to my amazement, one of them began asking the others what they weighed. Nearly all of them chimed in, and none seemed to really think anything of it. I sat silently, in awe. Can you imagine being a table of women tossing out their weights like it was their batting averages? Not so much.

For most of my twenties I weighed more than 200 pounds. I am five-foot four and a half, and I wasn't that big because I was big-boned; I was that big because I was fat. I weighed around 225 in the mid-90s, and by my early 30s I had dropped to about 210. When I was 32, I began losing weight. I didn't diet, count calories, or have surgery. I started watching my carbs a little bit, ate more protein, stopped snacking so much, and started a running program. When I turned 33 I weighed 161. I dropped to about 150 six months later, and I've hovered around that weight ever since. I ran a half-marathon on my 34th birthday; I ran a second one a week later.

When I was heavy, I thought there were ways I could hide it. In college I always left for classes early, so I could hike to the third floor and pant without being noticed. At my first job after college I developed a habit of not turning my head to the side to talk to people; I thought they'd notice my double chin if I did so. (Um, they probably noticed it anyway.) I avoided an office river rafting trip because of the whole bathing-suit issue. I hated summer business trips because I'd get sweaty. I hated having to scoot by someone on public transit because of how big I was.

When I was heavy I always felt there was a smaller person inside. My self-esteem was horrible, and though I always felt awful about my body, the idea of losing weight -- I probably thought I should weigh around 130 -- was insurmountable. That's why I am probably more amazed than anyone that I've managed to keep the weight off. I still don't know exactly how I did it and what prompted me, but it's among my proudest accomplishments. Not just the weight loss but the keeping it off, because it's said that 95 percent of people who lose that much weight gain it back in two years. (The National Weight Control Registry tracks people who've kept off weight for longer periods of time; I reached a milestone when I'd kept my weight off long enough to become eligible to join it.)

It was absolutely incredible to me the first time I tried on something in the Banana Republic women's department and it fit. I'd bought men's XL sweaters for years, but I wasn't able to dress as I wanted because the apparel industry is so incredibly backward when it comes to meeting the needs of its potential customers. (Do you know how much more money I would have spent on clothing in those years if I'd found something that fit me, was age-appropriate, and that I actually liked?) When I first started shopping at regular-size stores, I felt a bit disloyal to my former self, who had written angry letters to the CEO of J. Crew, asking why they didn't carry anything beyond a size 14. (Now they've expanded to size 16 -- whoopee. I meant two-digit sizes starting with the number 2, people.)

I've kept my weight off over the years not by dieting like a mad woman -- I've previously mentioned my penchant for baking -- but by exercising and weighing myself religiously. I believe the body has certain weights it can naturally maintain, and 150 seemed to be that for me. (220 was, too.) Even though at 150 pounds I still have a belly and would never be described as skinny, I decided that I could handle 150, plus or minus 3 lbs. So when I got up to 156 recently, after the second miscarriage, I decided I had to deal with it. I spent two weeks doing the first phase of the South Beach diet, eating only vegetables, protein, and nuts. My energy sucked, but I got enough to eat, and I lost 6 lbs. I originally thought I'd stay on the diet for a while and try to keep dropping weight; I have this fantasy of getting down to 145 and fitting into a pair of jeans I could wear back when I was running half marathons.

Instead I spent yesterday eating candy and pizza. I'm going to start eating better soon, like maybe tomorrow. But things are hard enough right now without feeling perpetually in denial. I am working on convincing myself that weighing 150 pounds is good enough. Sure, it would be great to weigh 145 before getting pregnant again. It would be great to weigh 130. But 150 has been good enough for more than three years. What's different now?

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