Monday, November 05, 2007

Health Issues: Weight/Size Maintenance

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed below are my own and are not to be taken as professional medical advice. If you want real advice on health matters, go to a real doctor and not to the blog of a random stranger whose avatar is a rabbit.

Okay, now that we’re through with the formalities, I’d like to start what I hope will be a series of posts on health and fitness by discussing of something that gets very little attention: weight maintenance.

Let’s face it, whether you’re happy as you are now or whether you think you need to lose some pounds, your goal, first and foremost, should be to not get any bigger. Weight loss, if desired, will follow from a solid base of weight maintenance.

But maintenance is harder than it sounds because of the way body composition affects metabolism. To put it simply, muscle speeds up your metabolism; fat slows it down. Gaining weight in the form of fat makes it more likely that you’ll gain more fat, thus slowing your metabolism further. Conversely, gaining weight in the form of muscle will help burn fat. And since muscle is more dense than fat, some people actually gain weight while losing inches.

This is why I believe scales are largely useless. Honestly folks, do you really care what the scale says? No one knows your weight unless you advertise it, but they can tell just by looking how big or small you are. So leave the scale alone!

Instead, make this simple promise to yourself: Never buy clothes that are bigger than the ones you have now.* If you have any “fat” clothes, put them in a box and take them to Goodwill.

Now you’re committed. You will either fit your clothes or you’ll have nothing to wear. No cheating by filling your closet with elastic waistbands, unless that's what you've got in there already!

Okay, so how do we maintain our current weight/size? Good question! This is highly individual and goes back to body composition and the matter of age. Getting older will slow down your metabolism, no matter what you do, so it’s important to get some kind of exercise each day (muscle burns fat, remember?) and to also have a realistic understanding of your diet. I’ll address both diet and exercise in future posts.

For now, let’s just accept that wherever we are today is our baseline, or perhaps more appropriately, our “Do Not Pass” line. Every day you stay at or below today’s size is a day to congratulate yourself. Many studies have suggested that stability and not weight/size in any given year is the best predictor of long term good health.

Be healthy and all other goals become possible!

* Note: Pre-menopausal women who are already on the skinny side of normal should expect to gain a dress size (one, not twelve!) after menopause. If it doesn’t happen, fantastic! But in general, this may be considered the exception that proves the rule of “never buy bigger clothes.”

16 comments:

Michele said...

There's hardly anything positive I can say about my cleaning job except that it does keep me in shape. Six hours a day of mopping = awesome shoulder muscles.

I'll be 45 years old next week and am lucky that my metabolism hasn't changed drastically. Then again, I'm pretty active. Then again, I love to bake and eat. I seem to yo-yo between size 6 and 8 depending on stress and my eating schedule. Is that bad?

Talia Mana said...

One thing I loathe when I teach my Emotional Eating workshops are people who are very focused on their weight. I keep trying to explain to them that it's only one measure and that other factors are more important.

As you suggest stability of weight is important. Yo yo dieting and weight changes place a toll on the body.

Also waist measurement is more important than weight (should be less than half your height with your stomach pulled in tight)

As important as your weight is, if you are depressed long-term or have other emotional health issues, you increase the risk of diabetes and other diseases we have previously attributed to genetics, diet and exercise. So it's a balancing act. Get your body right but get your mind in harmony, too.

Weight maintenance can be difficult if you have a dieting mentality because then you relax when you reach your goal weight. If you lose weight gradually and are making permanent changes to your life in the form of exercise, food and other supporting lifestyle changes such as stress management techniques then you should stay close to your ideal weight...

Vickie said...

I recently could prove everything you said. From my physical in Sept. to another last week for an insurance policy, I gained 3 pounds. BUT I also lost at least an inch if not more due to training for a half marathon. While I am so so with that, it doesn't look good on paper. The insurance examiners can't see what you look like. I have to wonder if I will get rejected.

Thomma Lyn said...

Hi, Bunnygirl -- what a great post, and I'm looking forward to your future posts on this and related topics! As you know, I'm dealing with age-related weight creep -- my weight, on the whole has stayed remarkably stable for the past fifteen years or so, even the creep has been sooooooooo slow. You have got a great point about setting a Do Not Pass weight. I have some pounds I want to lose, and once I get down to that weight, it will be my new Do Not Pass weight. I'm not expecting miracles -- I was reed thin and had the metabolism of a racehorse in college. I don't expect to be there again. But hubby and I are going to work on increasing the intensity of our exercise, and we're both trying to lose some weight through gradual and healthy lifestyle improvements and changes.

Chairman Mao said...

Mom sez I'm a SPAZ. Does that mean I don't need to ecksersize??

Marilyn MonREOW said...

Oh, *sigh*... exercise. Hrm. I much prefer naps... *purry sleepy smile*

pacatrue said...

Nice post, bunny. It makes sense to me. While I've been mediocre about it lately, what you say here is one of the reasons that I've been trying to incorporate exercise into my daily life as opposed to always making it just a special thing to do after work. In my case, that means biking to school and taking the stairs as much as I can. It seems that when exercise is something special and extra, then it's much easier to stop doing it.

I thought your asterisk exception was going to be about maternity.

bunnygirl said...

Paca, I think Paula Radcliffe has effectively proven that maternity doesn't have to lead to permanent weight gain, although it goes without saying that during maternity a woman would have to acquire bigger clothes. :-)

TX Runner Girl said...

Great post! I agree, get rid of the "fat" clothes asap. :-) I did that when I finally reached my goal weight in weight watchers and never looked back. Of course, right now I am kind of wishing I had them though. :-)

Crabby McSlacker said...

Great post--but damn, I wish I'd seen it earlier because I just wrote a post for tomorrow that says a lot of the same things! (Only not as well expressed).

I swear I didn't just copy you--not that I'm above stealing great ideas, I happened to do it by accident this time!

This will teach me to get behind on my blog visits.

Mary said...

I think the McSlacker is occasionally McPsychic. On the same wavelength, and stuff like that.

Good post, Bunnygirl!

the Bag Lady said...

Good post, bunnygirl! The Bag Lady needs to make some changes in her life and this makes good sense to her. Never get above my current weight again!!
Reading this, though, makes the Bag Lady think you aren't really going to like her recipe for beans - they are not exactly diet fare! But they are damned good, and she will post it tomorrow, JUST FOR YOU!:) (Oh, what a kick I'm getting out of my word verification - clozitqg (closet, quit growing!)

archi's mum said...

very cool! i actually just rearranged my room last weekend to put together a bigger enclosure for my bunny Riena. In the process I had to empty my dresser to move it and decided I would do exactly what you suggested - keep my fitting or even my clothes a little smaller and not buy anything bigger. I have several great pairs of pants that if I lost 15 lbs would fit GREAT! Great post! thanks. you really are a great encouragement to me!

I've decided on a new weighloss program my friend and I are going to market - Adopt a Rhodesian Ridgeback and Lose Weight! My friend is the local coordinator for Ridgeback Rescue, very healthy, a runner, and has really pressed into me how much exercise I have to give the new puppy she found me so that he'll be happy! I am losing weight!

Sarah said...

This is very interesting to me because as you may know I've lost a lot of weight (53 pounds) on Weight Watchers over the past year. I have 10 more lbs to lose to reach my goal, and then I will have to maintain that weight for as long as possible. I've been going along with the mindset of "lose" for so long I am not sure I will know how to settle into maintenance.

Speaking of getting rid of big clothes, I have divested myself of about half of my wardrobe since I started losing weight. The half that is left is composed of stuff I hung onto from my pre-weight-gain days as well as new things that fit my new body.

I've become dependent on exercise (I literally can't go without it for more than one day); my body craves physical exertion. I want to maintain a healthy level of exercise well into my dotage (as long as my knees hold up, I will run) and use that as a weight maintenance tool.

I'm at a weight now that I last was in college (10+ years ago). But this time, my body looks different. I'm much more muscular, and look thinner than my actual weight. I'm positive it's all the muscle I built while training for the half marathon. Interestingly, I just had a fitness test at my gym during which I learned that I have lost 54 pounds total since my last fitness test (March 2005), 41 pounds of which was solely fat (the other 13 being lean mass). 41 pounds of fat. I tried to mentally picture what 41 lbs of human fat looked like and I grossed myself out. Well, I'm glad to know it's not hanging off my frame any more!

Allie Boniface said...

Ugh...you are so right about paying attention to how clothes fit instead of the number on the scale! So why is it still hard for me to remember that? I was an English major, dammit, not a math major! So why do I obsess about numbers so much??

From Here to There said...

Really good post! I remember when my sister first started working from home, she wore nothing but sweats. Then realized a few months later that none of her clothes fit.

Ya, I'm in stretchies most of the time too, because I refuse to buy a bigger size, I just keep squeezing into my largest, uncomfortably. On the upside, they fit much better now! I will take your advice, the minute the bigger sizes no longer fit, they are outa here!