Saturday, June 22, 2013

For healthy weight maintenance, focus on trends, not data points

As a born-and-raised Los Angelena and an easily obsessive person, I've always had one eye on my weight. For many years, particularly in high school, my thoughts quickly went negative, no matter the number on the scale. I'm embarrassed to admit that, until college dance classes, I did literally no unnecessary physical activity outside of gym. (And somehow, I managed to get Badminton to count as my gym requirement for multiple semesters in high school.) I had no sense of what my body was capable of. I was (said as lovingly as possible) sort of a blob.

Thankfully, college dance classes reset this self-perception somewhat, and post-college strength training did even more so.

Now, I no longer obsess over The Number On The Scale the way I used to. Now I put more stock into whether I can do a split, or how my favorite dress feels on me, or the quality of my sleep. That said, these markers aren't always enough to keep me in check, weight-wise. That is, when I notice my favorite dress feeling a little snug, that's not usually enough to motivate me to run for the next month. But then the dress stops fitting altogether. And I get back on the scale.

So, I lied a little. I may not obsess over The Number, but I still take stock in it, especially when I'm not feeling quite right. And right now is one of those times. I've sized out of my cheapo Costco jeans, which are currently waiting in my closet for me to lose a couple pounds.

And now, I'll pull back the curtain a little, because the more I share my numbers and my neuroses around my weight, the less of a hold it has on me.

To the best of my memory, the lightest I've ever been at this height is 145. I was in 10th grade, and my mom and I did the Jenny Craig diet together. It was the first time in my life I thought about the food and the portions that were going into my body. I was a size 6, and to this day, it's still the goal weight carrot I use to motivate myself. In hindsight, the diet was terrible -- the base food was pre-packaged and full of preservatives, and the supplementary food they suggested you buy were all crappy substitutes for real food (veggie cheese, nonfat milk, margarine). I also wasn't exercising along with the weight loss, so although I was skinny, I was still sort of a blob, which is to say I had no muscle tone.

The heaviest I've ever been at this height is 183, according to a weigh-in at Kaiser Permanente. This was within my first year at Google. I wasn't yet using the gym much, but I was availing myself plenty of the company's free food. I was a size 12, and I got married at around this weight.

I don't really know what my "usual" weight is, but I gather that in high school and college, I was clocking in between 165-175.

As of 2.5 years ago, I started using Withings to track my weight. Withings is a bathroom scale that you can hook up to the internet. It measures your weight as well as your body fat percentage and BMI, then adds that data point to an ongoing graph:



So, in a way, I still use The Number to dictate my actions, but there's been two important developments:

1. Now, it's more about trend analysis than focusing on any specific number.
2. I can look at Body Fat changes + Weight changes, not just weight. (This is key. In 2009, I was 153 and fitting in size 6s, whereas in high school I had to get down to 145 to fit in the same clothes. The difference? I was a lot fitter in 2009.)

So, if you are the type of person who tracks his/her weight, I highly recommend looking at trends as opposed to data points. An easy way to do this is to use the Withings scale. A cheaper (but more manual) way is an app like Libra.

Note: These endorsements are personal. I wasn't asked to give them, nor am I receiving any compensation, monetary or otherwise, for doing so. I just think these products have made my life a little better, and I want to pay it forward!

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