Friday, November 10, 2006

A slave to the scale.

For those of you with the Y chromosomes who may not be in the know, I'm going to share a couple of secrets about the female sex that may cost me my PMS priveleges.

Today's post is brought to you courtesy of the bathroom SCALE, which I'm convinced is demon-posessed. That damned scale. I might merely consider it just wildly inaccurate, if it weren't for the fact that its readings matches the scales at the gym and the doctor's office.

Every day, like a lamb to the slaughter, I'm drawn to it. I drift over to the scale (right when I get up, and after I've peed, of course) to see what news it has in store for me. Yesterday I got on the scale and it read 151, and it was a good day. It had been creeping down slowly since the post-Soma Bloat subsided. I felt good. I felt sassy. Woo-hoo! 151 pounds!

I went for a short run, then went to work. I ate normally. I drank normally. I lived normally.

Then, today, it read 156.5. CRAP!

Why I suddenly shot up nearly six pounds isn't nearly as interesting to me as does the answer to the question, WHY does this BOTHER ME SO MUCH ?

After packing away my size 14's - 18's to donate to Goodwill, what I have left is a myriad of mainly sized 12's and some fat day clothes. "Fat day clothes", for those of you with y-chromosomes, are those items with loose and forgiving waistbands, and/or dark colors, which are "slimming," and/or they may be something we happened to be wearing one day and more than one person remarked about how nice we looked. That outfit then becomes the "wear-this-when-I-feel-fat-and/or-hideous-outfit." They are never form-fitting. They never, ever, ever have horizontal stripes.

I know, on a rational, intellectual level, that my weight is appropriate for my height, and I think that five pounds is about the same weigh as a 32-ounce bottle of Cytomax. I know this. I also know that I'm healthier than most other 40-somethings out there. I've done two half irons, dammit! You would think that I would be all down with my bad self, full of self confidence and efficacy. I further acknowledge that the images portrayed by the modeling and fashion industry are freakishly disporportionate, given that wearing a size 12 allows them to categorize me as, "plus-sized". I know its unreasonable.

Despite knowing this, as I told a friend yesterday, I've often found myself dreaming wistfully about being described as "willowy".

Usually, however, I'm described as "sturdy," or the dreaded, "stocky"

As in, "She'll be useful around the farm. She's from sturdy stock."

Just what every woman wants.

Our social system has done a real number on me, so that even when I dress in coordinated clothes that are draped appropriately about my frame, the image that stares back at me is Jabba the Hut. It doesn't matter if I just completed a half iron-man or half of a package of bakes Lays, I'm bombarded with message on daily basis: "Skinny=good. Not skinny=bad". "Have a big mac. Drink it down with some slimfast." "Love the skin you're in. Just make sure it's covering a size 2 frame." "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful" (and I'm paid for it, and you're not)

None of this has ever had enough affect to give me an eating disorder, just enough to make me feel bad about myself.

I don't know if I'm unusual in this regard, as in, "body dismorphic disorder" or if this is something that lots of women experience and just don't talk about. I think, at times, that Sweet Baboo worries that I'm unsually unhappy about my appearance. I wonder if that's the case?

This isn't some attempt to get comments on how I shouldn't worry about how I look. I'm genuinely curious as to whether I have some kind of body dysmorphic disorder or if this is a common phenomenon.

Comments, ladies? (Or guys?)



  1. Correction, I think that you fail to recognize your ultra sexiness, that’s not pathology. I do wish you could see yourself through my eyes though.

  2. Honey, you've been known to describe me with twig-like metaphors, and I suffer the same as you do. I KNOW I am a healthy weight, I KNOW I'm fit, but dammit, what is UP with the 5 pounds I don't want or need?!

    So - uh, normal. I think you're normal. Welcome to my world.

    I think if you were body dysmorphic you'd be weighing out your poo every day...You're not doing that, are you?

  3. Uhhhh, no. Haven't weighed the excement. Whew! (and I didn't call you twiglike, I called you "Birdlike")

  4. twig...bird...I love that you think of me in these terms.

    Have I said thank you?

  5. I watch my weight like a hawk. Not obsessively, but I like to know where I stand each day. Size 2, makes no difference.

    I know my weight within tenths of a pound before I step on the scale each morning. It's like a game. When I nail the correct weight- I get M&Ms. 4 days in a row, baby!

    Now how did I gain 4 lbs last week?

  6. I think *a lot* of folks of all shapes and sizes have body image issues.

    When I was young, I associated thin with weak and that is something I'm still tying to overcome as an adult. My son hates being 'skinny'. He is trying to bulk up and is currently obsessed with his weight. Similarly, my daughter is afraid she'll turn out like me...devoid of womanly curves. Sigh.

    A lot of us need to learn to be happy with the body we have and stop judging ourselves (and others) based on shape/size.

  7. I think it's something nearly every woman feels every day. I know I do. I spent five minutes today critiquing my face in a bathroom mirror (waiting for my daughter to finish using the potty). I am only happy that I couldn't see my body in the mirror!

  8. When I first started training, I thought to myself, "if I finish an Ironman, I'm going to be ripped". Well, that time has come and gone and here I am. Still rather large. No, I don't think I'm fat, but I'm faaaaar from skinny. This bothered me for a bit, but I quickly got over it. I guess I'm at peace with my body because I know it's more important to be healthy. And I KNOW I'm healthy. It sucks to know that I will probably always be over 200 pounds for the rest of my life, but things could be a whole lot worse. I don't know if this helps, but these are my feelings.

  9. Dear Misty,

    You ARE pretty hard on yourself about your weight.

    Weight really doesn't reflect body composition. I think you are on the right track when you measure your progress by your physical ability (which is awesome!) and by clothing size.

    If you want to measure something and escape some of the insanity of the scale, try getting your percent body fat measured once every other month. Just a suggestion.

    If it makes you feel any better, I'm at least 20 lbs heavier than you are and 5'6" and 41 yrs old and I'm not getting on my scale until AFTER Louisville. I don't want to divert my focus from training and trying to learn to eat appropriately. I've lost 130 lbs but still feel like completely going off solid food if the scale is up. I can't afford to do this and train at this level--so the scale has had to go. I DO have an eating disorder--I'm a compulsive overeater and will have to manage this for the rest of my life. I may finally get a grip on it while on "the road to Louisville" but I don't think there is a cure.

  10. I completely sympathize and I think you and I are pretty close in size. I'm 5'7" currently 156.5 and I'd like to be 140. Having seen pictures of you, I think you look great. I think I look like a cow most days. I really hate that my mood can be determined by a stupid number on a stupid scale so I'm really trying NOT to get on the scale every day. I'm watching my calories, water intake and workout efforts (I will NEVER weigh my poo, so I know it's not too serious) and I'm trying to gauge more based on how I'm feeling and my clothes are fitting. Not a stupid number on a scale. But I still get on it.

    Wish I could say something that would help. I love that new Dove campaign about real beauty at any size and I can genuinely see that other women similar size and shape to me look good, I just have yet to feel I'm one of them.

  11. Well, clearly this isn't just a female issue (especially if Mr. Benny, whom I've seen in person, thinks he's too heavy) Looks like the images in print and on TV are doing a number on a lot of us.

  12. They say the way to make your bike lighter is to make yourself shed the pounds. So the dilema continues for even us guys, trying to see does buffed out Pros and elite guys at the races. I check the scale daily & body fats %.

    While my family/friends thinks I should eat more.

    But I think if anything changes you, scale wise and beyond, it is training for an IronMan.

  13. I really considered calling my current series of posts "How to Gain 4 Pounds in 36 Hours". I know it's pretty much all water weight. But still I watch. And watchfulness is okay. Did I worry about it? Not so much.

    I believe that people who have lost a good chunk of weight do have to wait awhile for their self-image to catch up. It takes a while for your mental image of yourself to change.

    I also doubt that there are a great many people out there completely secure in their body images for a whole host of reasons.

  14. I think you probably have a mild form of BDD.

    I also think it's ridiculously common.

    I've gotten down to what I've held for years as my "ideal weight," and "ideal jeans size." I still don't like what I see in the mirror. I doubt I ever will, because it is not airbrushed and styled and primped.

    And I recognize the ultimate absurdity and idiocy of that. . . and I think for now, that's the best I can do.

  15. okay... first off, i must say: 151? you get down to that, and you aren't allowed to call your blog athena diaries ANYMORE. it's a rule. an athena rule. like the man rules, but with more chocolate.

    secondly, i TOTALLY relate. my biggest issue is that, fine. i know i'm a big girl, but i guess for a long time i just never really thought about it because i was working out 6 hours a day and was 153 pounds on a 6-foot frame. that, my friend, IS willowy. it didn't bother me that i wore size 12. the average woman in america wears a size 12. marilyn monroe wore something like a 14... but, now? i don't know what it is now, but my girlfriend who's about 5-8, 5-9 showed me the new pants she bought yesterday. size FOUR. FOUR! up until then, i'd been feeling pretty skinny. but, i'm currently a size 14... 10 sizes bigger than her and only about 3 inches taller.

    i, too, have been feeling a little heavy lately. i've gained about three pounds since soma... so, added to the seven pounds i still needed to lose, i'm back to being about 10 pounds overweight.

    my advice, step off the scale. weight and health should be about how you feel. do you feel healthy? are you doing what you need to do to be healthy? personally, i think you probably are.

    good luck.

  16. Totally common. And I'm right with you - I HATE being called "big boned" "voluptuous" "curvy" "sturdy" etc. Even when I was 115 pounds I was still "voluptuous" and "stocky." GAH!! Willowy is my dream, but I think at my height that's automatically ruled out.
    (And how did I gain 5 pounds since Friday? HOW?!)

  17. I've been reading your blog from the beginning over the last few days -- I'm 29 (soon to be 30) this year I've switched to vegetarianism and over the last 2-3 months I've decided to be active for the first time ever (always the geek, never the athlete). I went from easy (but long) walking, to fast walking, to trying to incorporate some jogging and running mixed in. I think in about a week I may be able to jog a whole mile straight without stopping. I've become more interested in participating in fun runs and races, and learned that I fit into the Athena category (I went from 197 to 177 lbs on my 5'9" frame since last year); which is how a Google search lead me to your blog. And I'm so glad it did! What an inspiration!

    The only reason I'm commenting now, though, is because you seem to know about the DSM-IV, and surely you know what what you describe isn't really BDD? It's a common body insecurity, that's "all". Unfortunately, too many people have it. Some to a higher degree, some to a lesser. Unfortunately the more obsessive you get about it, like weighing yourself every day, or multiple times a day, or spread-sheeting data about your weight -- the more likely you are to to develop unhealthy obsessive habits. There's a strong link to OCD and anorexia -- it's about insecurity but also control.

    I think you're fine -- hell, you're better than fine, you're a triathlete!! Not many people can say that.

    Also: A few years ago I was chatting with my dermatologist. (We're both Polish but I was actually born there). I think I was making some half-joke about my body and its weight, when he told me: "You're Polish! You were built to rake and plow fields!" Uhhhhh, thanks? Just what every young woman in her 20s wants to hear! Ugh!

    But eh, as someone who's been overweight since puberty and has a closet full of size 12-14s her adult life, I'm getting used to the idea. I actually miss the muscles I used to have when I took martial arts in junior high. Maybe running will help!

    Thanks so much for writing this blog and being such a source of inspiration! I love vicariously being a triathlete through your race reports :) Congrats on all your accomplishments!!

  18. As a matter of fact, I do know better now, thanks! I wrote this four years ago, before I'd had a year of DSM training and a half year of psychopharmacology. I know that I have problems with anxiety that move around from presentation to presentation, like wack-a-mole. I'm seeing a registered CBI therapist for it now.

  19. Yeah -- I realized after I'd written the previous comment how *silly* it was to comment on an entry so old, especially when I haven't yet gotten to read the more recent entries to see how you might've progressed with body image issues, but at that point it was too late to retract it :) My bad! But congrats on seeing the CBI therapist and getting a better handle on your anxiety. I can't wait for my health insurance to kick in so I can see one myself :)

    (Btw, I reached that able-to-run-one-mile-without-stopping marker earlier today. For some reason I felt more proud of that than graduating medical school, haha. And now I'm entertaining insane half-baked notions of participating in a half marathon in October. Thanks again for writing this blog -- it's inspired me to keep running and keep trying more than any other factor in my life right now... well, other than sheer pigheaded stubbornness, of course.)

  20. I wish I had gone to med school. I had the chance, but I was the single parent of 3 kids, so I got serial master's degrees instead. Most importantly, though, I love my job. I'm employed as a mental health assessor in a children't psychiatric hospital. A big part of my job is removing all the bad diagnoses that come in. (Apparently every moody angry teenager is bipolar now, regardless of whether or not they miss sleep).

    It's funny that you said that about running a mile. I was just thinking today about the the time that I actually ran for 5 whole minutes straight. Those little victories are important.

  21. I wouldn't stress about medical school too much -- I was actually so burnt out from the experience I decided to give it up entirely. Two years later after graduation (at least I made it), many things have changed and I'll be applying for residency soon, where I hope to get a position in psychiatry, actually. During this time between medical school and residency, however, I was plagued with a lot of "what if"s, and "I wish"s -- I think that's going to happen no matter what choices one makes. Especially for those of us prone to some anxiety, hehe. But heck, I still dream of going back to school at some point (maybe like those retirees one hears of) and getting a humanities Ph.D. :) That's one thing I'm learning with this exercising endeavor of mine that can be carried over to other aspects of life -- it's NEVER too late, if you're willing to put the work in.

    And you're right -- those little victories are important. I know my one little mile today is a joke to real runners and marathoners, especially since at 13:30 it was such a slow jog it bordered on walking (I discovered last night after some research online that my form was ALL wrong, so I worked today on form rather than speed with great results!), but it's a real point of pride. I have some friends and acquaintances that have been running marathons for years, but it's so nice to me that they'll give me a little thumbs-up or "good job!" of encouragement when they hear of my little victory. Maybe they can remember the time when it was a big deal for them, too!


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