Weight and size

As promised, a post on weight and size.

I am processing things from my lessons and practices this week, so I will take a little break from writing about dance.

As previously mentioned, prior to getting sick, I lost 75lbs and was working to lose more.  What I didn’t say was that prior to losing the weight, I shrank from a size 26 to 18 without losing a single lb.

I am sure you can imagine that was a very frustrating time in my life.  As far as I could tell, I was doing everything right, but I just never seemed to lose weight.  It even took quite a bit of time before I even realized I was getting smaller.

My message is that weight is not always an indication of fitness.  Even now, I have been told I look about 30lbs lighter than I actually am.  At my heaviest weight, I could run for more than 45 minutes, carry half my body weight over long distances, and bench press more than 100lbs.  After my illness, I know I can’t do any of that.  At least not right now.

Since recovering from my surgeries, I have been working hard on my diet and increasing my exercise.  I still had slips (everyone does), and I found it very frustrating that even after seeing before and after photos showing my change in size, I still weighed the same after surgery than before.  I even gained weight (mostly in inflammation) after my last surgery.

But then I remembered the ‘trick’ about me.  Before I start losing weight, especially when I am doing regular strength training, I will first shrink in size.  Once I realized this, I understood that if I wanted to have the best idea if everything I am doing is having a positive effect overall, I would need to start tracking my measurements as well as my weight.

So I started 3 weeks ago by taking baseline measurements of my bust, waist (narrowest part of my torso), belly button, hips, thighs, and arms once a week, including my weight.

What I have discovered is interesting.  In 3 weeks, I have lost a total of 1 lb.  But I am more than 8 inches smaller overall.  The first week, I even gained more than 1 lb while losing 2 inches.

I know that I am being diligent in diet and fitness, but it is interesting to see the results and progress laid out like that.  This week, some of my measurements were more than 2 inches smaller and I remeasured 3 times to make sure.  I try to make sure I keep the tape level and measure the largest area (except my waist which is the narrowest).  No matter how I adjusted the tape, I couldn’t come close to reaching my previous measurements.

I am glad previous history prepared me for this, but I can understand how otherwise I would be very frustrated right now.  During all my treatments, I tried very hard not to regain weight, even though I was told it would be inevitable.  Once I started gaining, I tried to minimize it.  The biggest change though was that I had to stop weight training–which meant that a lot of the strength and muscles I had built disappeared.  I am currently very similar to the same size I was before my diagnosis (at least according to my clothes), but I weigh almost 30lbs more.

Something to consider–many people say things like ‘muscles weigh more than fat’.  This doesn’t make sense.  1 lb of muscle weighs the same as 1 lb of fat.  The difference is that muscle is more dense than fat.  1 lb of muscle is much smaller than 1 lb of fat.  So while 1 lb of muscle might fill a teaspoon, 1lb of fat would fill a bowl.  This is a generalization of the difference, but hopefully the difference is clear.

While doing strength training and watching one’s diet, depending on general build, it is very possible that you are gaining weight while reducing size.  Denser muscle is being replaced by less fat.  That is what my body tends to do until it reaches a point where things even out and I start losing weight.  Eventually as the overall volume gets smaller, weight will have to be lost–simply because the volume is not there anymore.

This is why many bodybuilders show a BMI calculated through the weight/height measurements of someone obese, despite them clearly being fit and having almost no body fat.  Personally I don’t like using traditional BMI calculations for measuring fitness and healthiness just for this reason.  I feel similarly about the height/weight charts.

In the end, I chose to let my measurements and how I feel determine whether I am making progress towards my fitness goals.  I do still set weight goals, and I do intend to reach them, but I know that I will need to adjust them as I go based on my measurements and how I look and feel.  I never expect to be a ‘size 0’, as my frame itself is not that small.  There are some part of me that will always be a ‘medium’ or ‘large’, because that is how I am built.

But as I work on my recovery, I will continue to be disciplined and active and not let my size ever hold me back.  I was 4 sizes bigger during my first competition than I am now, but I still did well and was able to dance better than ladies half my size.  Do I think it affects my placings and score? Yes, of course it does.  But in the end, what matters is how I feel on the floor.  I know when I have done my best, and I know if I keep working I will keep getting healthier.

And as I get healthier, everything I do in dance will get easier.There will be less weight to control and move around.  My joints will be happier.  I will be able to dance longer.  I will be able to stretch better.

I know this, because it has happened before, and it will happen again.  I just had to remember that it’s not always about the weight on the scale.

Size matters more.

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