Musings on why weight targets bother me

Laura Vanderkam recently had a post about some fitness guru who, when she didn’t have kids, didn’t understand why moms didn’t just buck up and get fit.  Now that she has kids, she says she understands better.  The Huffington post blogger Lisa Belkin agrees.

Vanderkam, on the other hand, dislikes the way we say things are more difficult so some people don’t try, and she didn’t have a problem making 30-45 min of exercise every day a priority.  Therefore everyone should make it a priority.  (Perhaps using the morning.)

I didn’t understand why that didn’t quite sit with me until houseofpeanut chimed in and said she didn’t like the argument “I was able to do this so everyone should do it.”  Right.   People do have different utility functions and different budget constraints.  That’s why we can have comparative advantage.  Some things come easier to me or Laura Vanderkam because well, we’re in that 1% of smartness that Femomhist talked about.  And for some reason, possibly nature, possibly nurture, we’re determined and brave and so on.  Even though I don’t understand why some people can’t just will things to be so or buckle down, I’ve come to realize that doing that is more difficult for many people.  (And yes, people also have different priorities, but what irritates people like me, and no doubt Vanderkam, is the people who constantly complain about something, indicating it is a priority, but keep not doing anything to fix it.  But I’ve come to think that perhaps it really is harder for them for some reason I cannot fathom.  Not everyone is type A.)

But that’s not what really bugged me about the post.  What really bugged me about the post was Vanderkam’s update of her goal to get to 125 lb.

Should that bother me?  Why does that bother me?

We’ve already posted a long series on how other people’s values and hobbies aren’t judging our own.  I don’t really think that Vanderkam wanting to get to 125 lb is judging my lack of desire to see my ribcage. We’ve already said that neither of us cares much for exercise (though when it matters, say someone else’s life is at stake, or the doctor says it’s either exercise or give up pasta, we’re both doing pretty well), but that we don’t mind other people who enjoy exercise.  We don’t have any problem with people whose hobby is to run marathons, even though that is unlikely to ever be a hobby for either of us.  More power to them.

But it really irritates me when people say they have a weight goal that they want to get to, especially when that weight goal is low.  (Note:  125lb is within my healthy weight range, but at the low end.)  I probably wouldn’t be bothered if her stated weight goal were, “A healthy weight” or even “150 lb,” since I tend to think of that as the top of the healthy range for people of average height and I’m short so I have a hard time thinking above average.  I definitely am not bothered by goals to exercise any amount of time per day and to eat healthy foods.  Those are good process goals.

Additionally, she says she is like 1.5 lbs from a target weight.  That’s nonsense.  That’s within measurement error of a scale.  It’s within normal fluctuation of a female body throughout the month.  Are you really measuring 1.5 lbs?  (The pregnant one of us has been changing 4lb within the course of a day!)  What does 125 really mean and is focusing on that target rather than fitting into a larger range really something one wants to spend a lot of time thinking about?

Currently I live in a red state where people weighing more than 125lb is the majority.  That, of course, includes me, who probably hasn’t been 125lb since I was 14 and about 4 inches shorter.  I don’t think the majority is particularly vocal on the subject of weight here– perhaps on the subject of pork products, but not the subject of weight itself.  We just don’t think about it that much.  So I don’t think I’ve been swept up in that, looking down on skinny elitists.

No, I think the irritation comes from the time I spent in a city in which the majority of the relevant population probably is well under 125lb (again, not me, though again, I was within the healthy range) and women were constantly obsessing about their weight and their numbers and saying, “I’m soooo fat,” especially the super skinny ones.  So much emphasis on appearance and so many people who do unhealthy things to get to weights that aren’t even attractive.  The vocal majority and I was a member of the persecuted minority… persecuted by having to listen to ultra-skinny people obsess about their (“too high”) weight all the fricking time, everywhere.  And although we’re not saying Vanderkam obsesses in such a way, she’s using the words, terms, and goals that they use, so I’m instantly reminded of that again.

Using weight as a goal isn’t healthy.  There are a lot of very unhealthy ways to lose weight (when I last left the previously mentioned city, I believe the liquid cleanse was back in… or maybe it was hcg injections).  There are a lot of healthy things that cause you to gain weight.  Muscle weighs more than fat but takes up less space.  I’d rather be lean and muscular than scrawny and malnourished, even if it meant weighing more.  When people talk about weight target goals, they’re ignoring that and putting the emphasis on the outcome rather than the process.  And the outcome is one that doesn’t make sense.  It’s not like saying you have an outcome goal to bench a certain amount or run a certain distance– those are directly correlated with health and strength and discipline.  Getting your weight down can be good or bad depending on how you do it.

And when people put that emphasis on appearance and weight, it contributes to a culture in which appearance and weight are important, nobody feels good about their weight, and some people start turning to unhealthy diets and obsessions.  Talking about it like that has negative spillovers on everybody else.  Seriously, it does: here’s an article.   “Results are discussed in terms of the ways in which fat talk may act as an injunctive norm, reinforcing women’s body-related distress. ”  One of the commenters on the Vanderkam post rightly linked this kind of talk to the patriarchy.  Why do women have to be so appearance and weight-obsessed?  What advantages do men gain by not having that constantly weighing on their mental load?  Even if the outcome of the conversation is “Hey I’m pretty skinny and hot!” it still steals processor cycles to even think about it at all.

Of course, people have a right to talk about such things if they want.  Nobody has an obligation to not cause negative spillovers on other people or to fight the patriarchy.  And maybe a person knows what weight they feel healthiest at given healthy exercise, diet, and so on.  (So why not focus on the process?  Exercising 30-45 min/day is healthy as is eating healthy foods and listening to your hunger, and it’s important to have a healthy process that’s sustainable no matter what weight goal you’ve hit.)

But it still bugs me.  And I’m glad I don’t live in that city anymore, even though I wish we had more public transportation and walkable areas.  And I wish they didn’t put so much sugar in things around these parts.  We could stand to focus a little more on health here, but I don’t think focusing on specific weight targets is the way to go about it.

Related:  chacha discusses BMI.

What do you all think?  Should we be talking about weight and BMI targets?  Or should we stick to health and fitness?  Or just talk about whatever we want and tune out what annoys us?  Are there spillovers when we talk about these things, and is that a real problem?

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94 Responses to “Musings on why weight targets bother me”

  1. eemusings Says:

    Hmm. I skip over posts about weight and tend to skim fitness ones – I’m genetically blessed by Western standards so weight struggles hold no interest for me (I can’t relate) and I do the bare minimum fitness wise (don’t really want to read about others bleating on about their routines).

  2. Perpetua Says:

    One of my favorite small facets of Bridget Jones’s Diary (book) was her obsession with reaching a targeted weight, and then when she reached it, everyone was like, wow you looked better before. Numbers are silly, even from the most superficial standpoint because different weights look better on different people. Of course, the blogger in question might know from previous experience that her target weight of 125 is what looks good on her (I’m average height, and 125 looks about right on me, definitely not too thin – and I’ve been too thin, from health conditions – , it’s just the way I hold the weight). But that doesn’t alter the importance of your point about numbers. let’s focus on how we feel, not an arbitrary number. I have no scale in the house and it’s awesome.

    Wait, you guys don’t value seeing your rib cage? Does. Not. Compute.

    And on the first point of the post (to go in reverse order), I have great difficulty in figuring out how to make time for exercise, and now that I’m not going to the office every day, my meager daily walking is down to zilch. But I literally can’t get up earlier in the morning, my kids wake up so early. There was an interesting challenge on askmoxie about getting more sleep, and you really see the structural difficulties parents (in this case) and time; adding one thing means losing something else (laundry, sleep, sex, cleaning, etc). Not everybody’s schedules have wiggle room.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      What can I say, I value breasts over ribs (although not when it comes to meat products… I’d take a pork rib over a chicken breast pretty much any day, though if we’re going meat products not much can beat a pork belly, especially one crispy with a caramelized glaze). There’s a trade-off there.

      Obviously if you don’t have time for exercise you should be out-sourcing laundry, sleep, sex, cleaning etc. Except that people do have different priorities and different budget constraints.

      • Perpetua Says:

        Me, too, except I really didn’t like my nursing boobs; they were heavy and made me look like Dolly Parton.

        In my particular case, it’s a luxury choice rather than a necessity choice – what I mean is that I probably *could* find space and time for a little exercise, but right now I value other things more (extra sleep, baking projects, playing with the kiddos).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I imagine most people wouldn’t want to outsource sex either. :)

        Dolly Parton sizes have never been an issue for either of the grumpies, nursing or not. (Though the non-mom one of us has never had a chance to try out nursing sizes, obviously.)

      • rented life Says:

        I love having breast now (I didn’t for ages), but I do wish they could agree to be the same size so bra shopping wasn’t a pain.
        I’d like to outsource doing cardio. Seems more reasonable than outsourcing sex.

      • chacha1 Says:

        Here’s where I’m at on ribs: if they can be seen directly below the breasts, that’s a good sign: you’re not carrying too much abdominal fat. If they can be seen directly *above* the breasts, that’s a bad sign: you are way too damn skinny.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        If what looks like tiny breasts are actually bones… that’s probably not a good thing.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      @rented life
      My mom said the one bright thing about breast cancer was after reconstruction surgery she was evenly sized for the first time since she’d gotten a lump removed in her 20s.

  3. mareserinitatis Says:

    After my first kid, my weight went way up. I found that I function better on a fairly high-protein diet. I kept hearing from doctors how unhealthy it was, until I started getting my weight down, in which case they would rave about my ‘great work’. Ummm…sure. The big reason I stayed on it, however, was not because of weight but because I *felt* better. It’s much easier to motivate myself to eat right when I focus on how eating crap makes me feel. (And eventually, it turns out that a lot of the stuff I avoided eating much of before is now stuff I can’t eat at all because of intolerances…)

    Same thing happened after second son…weight shot back up. Diet didn’t seem to make much of a dent. I could hold a weight, but not go down. And my labs have been coming back worse and worse. So I decided to start running. I’d read on a blog (Obesity Panacea, I believe) that fat people who exercise are healthier than skinny people who don’t. So I felt like I was going to die for the first 3-4 weeks, but then it got better. Nothing changed for 3 months, but I started to really enjoy the running. (I’m also very goal oriented, so having goals and milestones keeps me motivated. I have a hard time committing to something and then backing down.) Anyway, now I’ve been running, and as long as I don’t slip into the “I’ll burn off the calories later” mode, I’ve been losing a few pounds a month consistently. But, I find that the running is a great destressor, and I’m trying to look at the weight loss as a bonus. Things that I’m trying to focus on is my blood pressure, resting heart rate, etc. Those numbers have come down, and that’s more important. (And the weight loss has this annoying side effect of making me have to shop for new clothes…so in that regard, it kind of sucks as I hate clothes shopping.)

    So, long story short: the goal should be the process. I wholeheartedly agree because every effort to get to particular weight has *never* worked for me…and I have worked my ass off (ha!) to get there. When I started focusing on health and nutrition, things have gone much better. I’m going to assume my body will tell me what the correct weight is rather than worry too much about where I end up.

    I think all the problems stem from the fact that people assume skinny = healthy. Not true.

    • chacha1 Says:

      You are a rational person and your approach has been intelligent. :-) Congratulations on getting healthier. It is great that you found a sport you enjoy.

      In my case, a relatively high-protein diet has made my energy levels better, helped keep mood level as I veer into perimenopause (thanks, Ma Nature, you b!tch!), and helped me keep my weight steady.

      It’s a lot easier to “find time” to exercise when you have plenty of energy. :-) And once you start exercising, if your diet is good for you, you have more energy! Win/win.

    • NoTrustFund Says:

      Since having kid #2 I have also been motivated to eat healthy based on how I feel. With two kids and job I just cannot afford to not feel good. I’m slowly starting to run again which also feels great. We don’t have a scale right now but I don’t think I’m really losing any weight, but I feel so much better that I’m motivated to keep going.

  4. becca Says:

    I have a pretty sensitive annoyance trigger for all manner of diet, weight and many exercise conversations.
    I don’t know if it’s predominantly due to:
    1) jealousy (perhaps just reflexive- I was a fat kid growing up). I think that predominates in my response to one friend in particular.
    2) outrage. When I was a teenager, a very close friend of mine at the time had a pretty nasty case of anorexia. She was a dancer, and so immersed in that subculture (i.e. completely out of touch). My friend was very tall, and not genetically disposed toward thinness, and so she fought the number on the scale per se a LOT. Most dieting conversations remind me to some degree of her attitude at the time, and they irritate the heck out of me. Sometimes it seems like men bond over sports talk (98% vicarious, of course) and women bond over dieting. BLECK.

    On that particular article, the thing that actually made me want to strangle her is the “I started running two weeks after giving birth”. It’s now been more than two YEARS for me, and I still can’t run in the ummm.. bounciest fashion without Consequences.

  5. Prof-like Substance Says:

    My wife and I are currently doing an exercise program because we both felt we needed more activity in our lives. We’re doing it at the only time we have available: 5:00am. Does it suck? Hell yes, especially for this night owl. But the choice was to do it then or forgo dinners with our family (this is not the kind of thing you do on a full stomach) in order to fit it in. Five weeks in, so far.

    WRT weight, I think it is a deceptive measure. If your goal is simply to reduce fat, then I suppose it could be used to measure progress. But if you are not building muscle (and thus adding weight) along the way, that would seem odd. Certainly if one has a significant amount of weight to lose to fall within a healthy spectrum, then the scale may seem more useful. But correlating health or fitness directly to weight makes less sense to me than meeting certain fitness goals.

  6. Tinkering Theorist Says:

    Ever since I stopped eating wheat, I’ve been eating way less food because I’m not as hungry. I’ve lost about 10 lbs (I did replace wheat products with gluten-free products, so it’s not like I’m low carb now or anything, I just am not starving constantly–it’s actually quite nice not to have to stop work for morning snack 2 hours after breakfast, and to come home when I’m at a stopping point rather than when I need to eat dinner). Since then I’ve been wondering how many overweight people have a medical problem (that came before they were overweight). I know that a lot of people have ‘metabolic syndrome’, but I wonder if the underlying problem came from overeating, or if it caused the overeating in the first place. I guess I have some reading to do . . .

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      One of us has PCOS (on top of currently not being able to eat wheat). Except the PCOS goes away when pregnant and nursing. There’s definitely a huge difference in size and energy and hunger and so on when the PCOS isn’t expressing or when diet is changed to be more PCOS compatible. Given that about 10% of women have PCOS… and there’s also thyroid disorders, undiagnosed food intolerances etc… all these things make being healthy more difficult, at least until the person finds the key, whether that be specific lifestyle changes or the appropriate medication.

      • Tinkering Theorist Says:

        PCOS sounds like it really sucks–I didn’t realize 10% of women had it! Seems like there should be a ton of research going that way, then. Some people seem to think that there’s a link between PCOS and Celiac but I don’t know if there’s research to back that up. Autoimmune thyroid problems (among other things) are much more common among Celiac patients than the general population. In fact, they say people with autoimmune thyroid disease should be tested for Celiac. My thyroid was tested a few years ago (I have a strong family history of low thyroid) but it was ‘fine’. It would be interesting to see if it’s gone up now, though. Of course, that would require having a doctor who doesn’t suck–I can’t wait until I move away from this horrible competent-doctor-forsaken place (which will be in August).

        Anyway, I wish there was more emphasis on prevention and basically finding out how to be 100% healthy in this country. It seems like if you’re not having a serious emergent issue, you don’t get a lot of help from the medical system. Recently there’s been a bunch of emphasis on preventive stuff like taking your weight and cholesterol and blood pressure, but that doesn’t seem like it would help if there’s no follow-up care in particular. And what about really looking at your health as a whole and trying to fix minor problems before they become a big deal? Maybe we should take some tips from Chinese medicine (modulo the pseudoscience crap).

        Unrelated: If one of you is still off of wheat, I heard that the cup4cup gluten-free flour at Williams Sonoma is a really nice substitute for fancy stuff. I just got some and I’m going to make puff pastry, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Fortunately there is a lot of research going on with PCOS! It’s amazing how much has changed even since I was first diagnosed.

        They’re always testing my thyroid and it’s always ok, but a lot of my symptoms are similar so they have to do their due diligence.

        We have to go into the city for Williams Sonoma, but I’ll be interested in your findings. So far I hate the Bob’s red mill substitutes.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        btw, one of the things the Accountable Care Act tries to do is encourage reimbursement plans that focus on the whole person rather than on individual incidents… it’s really hard to price though so they’re basically funding pilot studies on the idea– if you hear about accountable care organizations, that’s one of the ways they’re trying out.

    • chacha1 Says:

      The American “health care” system is actually a “disease care” system. There’s often no insurance coverage (among people who even have it anymore) for diagnostic tests, and almost never for things like nutritional consults (the type that are ideally done along with an elimination diet to find food sensitivies, allergies, etc.).

      Until you are clearly SICK you can’t get treated unless it comes out of your own pocket, basically. So a lot of people just don’t find out what their issues are until the issues have progressed into chronic illness. :-(

      • Banana Says:

        Even if you are truly sick. I’ve got Crohn’s disease and related autoimmune arthritis and I can’t get a nutritionist paid for. You’d think with Crohn’s it would be highly recommended (I did see one out of pocket and it was incredibly helpful).
        And I guess I’m not even sure what to do with the larger conversation about weight loss and ‘choices’ since I didn’t choose to have a disease that flares after pregnancy or to take medications that cause weight gain on top of that. But perhaps I’m too much of an outlier? Or am I? Do we have any idea how many women have what I see as a bad reaction to the physical demands of pregnancy and postpartum hormonal craziness? It impacts all sorts of autoimmune diseases (actually, initial symptoms often show up after a first pregnacy), postpartum depression and anxiety must also be tied to weight and exercise issues too. It just seems to damn simple minded to act like everyone is starting from the same place. It’s icky to judge people as if we’re all just walking around making choices, good or bad.

  7. kara Says:

    I have a real problem with “I don’t have time” as an excuse not to exercise and eat right.

    Let’s take a hypothetical someone who goes on crazy spending sprees until checks started bouncing and credit cards got declined every payday, then complains that they are always broke and always getting calls from creditors and always in a money crunch. Now let’s say that someone is told repeatedly, you need to budget your money and make a plan, and that someone continually says “I don’t have time” and “It’s too difficult”. What would be the response?

    Yet when someone who is overweight or out of shape complains about those things and is told to exercise and eat healthy food, the excuse “I don’t have time” is somehow acceptable. To me that’s a double standard.

    I wrote an article that got me kicked off a touchy-feely women’s weight loss site that was titled “The Arrogance of ‘I Don’t Have Time’.” The gist of it was (and remains) that there are very very very few people who truly cannot carve 30 mins out of their day to get some form of exercise. Anyone who spends 30 mins reading this blog and responding here (as I’ve done) is lying about how much time they have. Maybe even they’re lying to themselves, but they’re lying. When someone claims that they are so special that they don’t have time, they’re saying that all the people who made being healthy a priority and buckled down and did it are obviously less important than they are – their lives are less full, possibly less fulfilling.

    That’s just the part of the rant that I felt like writing out this morning. I haven’t had my 2nd cup of coffee yet.

    My point of view on this comes from someone who (at 5’4″) used to weigh nearly 260 lbs and be a couch potato. Now I’m 100 lbs lighter, run, lift weights, take the time to make healthy food for myself (not that much time), and own and run a message board about health and fitness (as opposed to just weight loss). For people who are “tired of hearing about it” … I have to say, too bad. For me talking about the weight I lost and the level of fitness I have (which I never in my life thought I’d have) is an enormous part of who I am and something I take pride in.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Implicit with the “I don’t have time” is “I don’t care enough” and if someone doesn’t care, then meh. So long as they’re not complaining (and making me listen), I don’t care either. Same thing with people who are in debt– I don’t care if they’re in debt so long as I don’t have to a. hear them complain about it and b. listen to them brag about the bad choices they keep making to put them further into debt. (Also, so long as their being in debt doesn’t affect me, and generally it doesn’t.)

      Also: there’s nothing wrong with preferring reading this blog to exercising. Different people have different priorities, and reading this blog is an excellent choice of priorities.

      • mom2boy Says:

        I’m reading this blog and eating a chocolate chip cookie.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I just finished off a chocolate coconut chew larabar. I miss cookies. (And exercised before going into work so as to decrease the chance of c-section.)

        Again, we have nothing against people who act in accordance to their priorities (so long as their priorities don’t hurt other people!). Different people have different priorities and that makes the world an interesting place.

      • kara Says:

        Oh totally.:) That’s why I read the blog. I just don’t use it as an excuse to not do other things and then whine about those things. (Um, well, not normally. Mostly. Anyway.)

    • scantee Says:

      I have a real problem with people who have a real problem with “I don’t have time”. It doesn’t have much to do with time, it’s simply the shorthand way of saying, “my priorities are elsewhere”. A lot of people really, really do not enjoy exercise for exercise’s sake and that is really hard for people who consider exercise a hobby to understand. If exercise-dislikers choose to spend their free time doing something they enjoy, like reading blogs, instead of doing something they loathe, like exercising, I don’t blame them.

      I think we do a real disservice to people by placing so much emphasis on the importance of exercise over fitness. We can’t expect everyone to enjoy the hobby of exercise (running, using the elliptical at they gym, weightlifting) but I think we can get many more people to enjoy the benefits of fitness (going on a walk with a friend, gardening, taking a bike ride with your child).

      • kara Says:

        Then say “I have other priorities”. Don’t make excuses. Own your reasons.

        And believe me exercise is not a “hobby” for me. It’s not always something I enjoy or want to do. But I want even less to go back to being 260 lbs and out of shape and weak. So I do it.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        If you’re in a city with a vocal majority constantly obsessing about too thin weights… it take a LOT of bravery to say “I have other priorities” because people take that statement as a judgment on their own priorities (even though it generally isn’t). I could easily say I have other priorities here (especially if said priorities involved mayonnaise, but I judge), but if I said it in the other city that would cause a really awkward silence and then someone would probably write up about what a bitch I was on the popular mommy forum for the city. It’s violating a social code. Saying you don’t have time isn’t violating that social code and pisses fewer people off. Especially when it’s a conversation you don’t particularly want to be having in the first place but have to because the culture is weight- and appearance- obsessed and that’s just what women talk about instead of the weather.

      • scantee Says:

        Puh-lease. It’s not an excuse. Why do they owe you, or anyone else, the perfect reason?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Hey now, no fighting when I can’t get in and moderate! Use “I” words and stuff.

        (And yes, I should be getting back to work but spreadsheets are BORING.)

      • kara Says:

        Huh. I’m not sure how we got to the hostile part of the convo. :)

        I’m assuming here if someone is telling you that they don’t have time, then the conversation has been about exercise to begin with. When someone makes it a point to tell me that they don’t have time to exercise, I call BS. The only way the topic is going to come up between us is (a) you see me going out to exercise and make the comment “wow I wish I had time to go to the gym like you do” or (b) you complain to me that you can’t lose weight or can’t get in shape or don’t feel good and when I suggest exercising you say you don’t have time.

        Other than that … it’s not like I”m demanding an explanation from anyone who doesn’t exercise. I really don’t care that much about what other people do. No one owes me a reason for anything.

        [Also please note that the use of "you" in this post is generic - "you" being anyone who engages me in conversation about the topic, not specifically you, @scantee.]

      • scantee Says:

        I used “they’ intentionally; I exercise regularly and enjoy doing so. I just don’t expect everyone else to have the same interest in it as I do and understand why people who don’t like exercise would get annoyed by the constant questions about why they don’t do it.

        This reminds of internet conversations I’ve read about the reasons women quit breastfeeding. A lot of ardent breastfeeding supporters get up in arms if a woman says she “couldn’t breastfeed” because they feel like it is a cover for the real reason for quitting. Guess what, it usually is a cover for a different reason, but it doesn’t matter because they don’t owe you the real reason. It’s none of your business. (I exclusively breastfeed both of my children for more than a year so I feel like this is another area where I’m not in danger of taking criticisms personally.)

      • mom2boy Says:

        I agree with the acceptability, or at least utility, of using “I don’t have time” as short hand rather than a literal justification. Similar to when I stopped saying my kid didn’t sleep bc of all the flack I’d get (and yes I was complaining about being tired – because I was! but quickly I figured out when I could be honest and when I had to just say “everything is fine”.)

        And also this is spot on for what’s going on right now in our house:
        “and many times, you have to ask yourself: Do I want to go work out, or do I want to see my family before bedtime? Depending on how often you’ve been home or not…you make the choice to actually spend time with family.”
        My partner likes to bike. It takes a good hour and a half. She also travels for work. We want to spend time together when she’s home, so she often passes up her biking for a walk with me and the kid and the dog. I’ve heard her say on more than one occasion that she doesn’t have the time to fit cycling in right now. If the person she’s talking to is mentally calling BS, well, that’s a pretty harsh reaction, imo.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        @mom2boy… somewhere we’ve got a post on a similar topic about saying things you don’t necessarily mean in response to personal questions… ooh, we actually have two (word search “intrusive”): http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/on-answering-questions-whose-answers-often-offend/

        http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/when-a-mom-says-shed-love-to-stay-at-home-but-she-needs-the-money/

      • chacha1 Says:

        Well … unfortunately, fitness requires exercise.

        You may choose to frame it as “a walk with a friend” because that feels more social, or “a bike ride with your child” because that feels more like being a good parent, but it’s EXERCISE.

        The word “exercise” is not a bad word and should not have bad connotations. That’s a very 1970s viewpoint IMO, harking back to the days when going to a gym was seen as something only a musclehead would do.

      • scantee Says:

        A better distinction might be doing something where the primary motivation is activity (exercise) as opposed to doing something where activity is a byproduct and not the primary motivation (fitness). I think far more people can be compelled by the latter rather than the former.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Like how it’s easier to eat spinach on a pizza because it’s yummy (obviously a whole-grain crust etc.) than it is to eat boiled spinach because it’s good for you.

  8. scantee Says:

    I see nicoleandmaggie beat me to it. Gotta keep my comments shorter.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      nicoleandmaggie need to actually *start* work for the day so should probably let leechblock do its thing (instead of cheating by reading comments from the little wordpress thingy on leightpf’s blog)

  9. Cloud Says:

    Hmmm. I don’t know. I don’t think everyone who has a target weight is doing so because the only thing they care about is the weight. I use weight as a target because it is an easy surrogate marker to use. I’m actually aiming to be healthier and feel better- but I know from experience that it helps to have a concrete goal, and weight is easier than, say, measuring my body fat or lung capacity (when I’m overweight, my asthma is worse). I’ve been adding more exercise into my life. Of course I want my clothes to fit me better (I have discovered I hate shopping for pants more than I hate running, apparently). But really, I just want to be healthier. And yeah, exercise makes me healthier, both mentally and physically. There is research to support that, as well as my own observations in my life.

    I think it is sort of like the savings targets some people use- the exact target is probably not as important as changing the behavior to save instead of spend, but a savings target is a useful, easy surrogate marker to use.

    Also, as an aside, Michaels’ original comments were incredibly obnoxious and insulting, so I can sort of understand why some people might be enjoying her having to eat some crow.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      No, I’m sure many people know that given their exercise and eating regimens, that in combination with weight is where they feel healthiest. However, that’s not the framing they give when they just reference a weight target. And many people who have weight targets have those targets at any cost, which leads to unhealthy and bizarre diets and exercise plans. What we say affects what other people think and do, and how we frame things affects how other people think about things. Especially for people with strong personalities who have a public stage (like Laura Vanderkam).

  10. rented life Says:

    Ugh. This definitely frustrates me. I am extremely short, so 125 is the higher end of health, 110 the low end. I’d be happy to be 125–to me, the high end means I have curves and as someone who was picked on as a kid for being bone thin–naturally! I was a good eater! I enjoy having curves. I know I’m overweight now and sometimes I try to do something about it–some times the motivation sticks better than other times–but I don’t complain about it because 1) I know it’s my fault and in my control and 2) I’ve learned if I don’t like me now then I won’t like me thinner.

    My mom, whom I LOVE a great deal, has lost a lot of weight. She looks good. But it’s not good enough. She hates he calves (I am have the same ones. She says she can’t wear boots…I can…doesn’t add up.) She hates this that or the other. Constantly picking and depriving herself. All dad and I want is for her to love herself. She’s made a major achievement and no matter how much weight she loses, she’s not going to look like she did at 18. She doesn’t need to weigh what she did at 18 either. I wish she could be ok with it. I feel like these weight goals and discussions fuel her desire–she reads all that sort of stuff–instead of making her love herself. Makes me sad.

    Re: things being harder…While I’m Type A with most things (My filing cabinet is a beautiful thing…my mom? Never occured to her to color code before I said something.), some things are harder. I have depression. I’m aware of what it impacts, what is harder (I call it functioning depression, as I’ll get up and go to work)…and when people say “Why don’t you just get up and DO something?” I realize they don’t get it. It’s also not helpful to hear that on my end (it gets translated into “look at what else you fail at!”) While I realize you aren’t saying that at all, I just wanted to give you a view for a few of us that do find things harder….that said–I agree people shouldn’t complain about things and not do anything….and I know when I’m complaining about something that I feel like my depression is holding me back on, I’m just looking for some external support because all my internal support has been spent. Not everyone is looking for that, of course.

    • rented life Says:

      oh, I feel I should add, after reading some people’s posts, that for ages mom blamed her kids (me and my brother) for her weight gain. Her mom gained a ton of weight in pregnancy too….Is this biological? I don’t know, but hearing that never made me feel all that great. (I love her, she’s since stopped saying that, but really? It’s unproductive to say that.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I think the evidence is mixed on whether or not metabolism changes after childbirth because of childbirth… nobody has nailed it yet– there’s studies saying both things.

      • rented life Says:

        Either way…a regular breakfast of pepsi and M&M’s outweighs her having two kids. oddly enough, I always thought mom was perfect–while she always thought she looked ugly…

  11. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    One of the major reasons that fitness- and food-related health is subject to “competing priorities” is that massive multinational corporations are engaged in a very sophisticated effort employing advertising, lobbying, and other tools of social control to create huge psychological incentives for people to sit on their asses consuming mass media “content” and eating large quantities of toxic food and huge psychological disincentives for people to get outside and exercise and eat healthy food in moderate quantities. What is absurdly arrogant is the notion that the extent to which different people are more or less resistant to this concerted scientifically designed program of social control is nothing more than a matter of individual choice and preferences.

    • Perpetua Says:

      Word. Moreover, our capitalist system of obsessing over the amount of time we spend at our office place as the only metric for evaluating work combined with lack of social programs and social safety nets means that the lives of working people, especially working class people, are pretty effing stressful and exhausting. We live in box houses 30-60 minutes away from where we work for 40-50 hours a week, and spend all our money on daycare/after school programs, mortgages, and gas. Add single parenthood for how many Americans now? and viola! and you have some exhausted people without a lot of extra time on their hands. So yeah “choices” and “priorities”.

  12. First Gen American Says:

    In my neck of the woods you’re a bit of an outcast if you don’t drive a subaru outback and have a bike or boat permanently strapped to it. Here people aren’t so obsessed about weight as they are fitness and hours spent outdoors, but I do seem to know more people’s body fat percentages than I do their actual weight. Here it’s okay to drink lots of beer and eat brats as long as you work out 12-20 hours a week which offsets the partying and you can still maintain single digit body fat percentages. It’s just a whole different league here. People aren’t waify, but they are unbelievably ripped.

    It’s kind of hard to compete when you have kids to juggle on top of everything else. As a single person who likes the outdoors, it’s a great environment. Nowadays we are just waiting til we can drag the kids with us. The canoe is a good intermediate step for having kids in tow while paddling. Toddler life vests are super cute by the way.

    Lastly, I think the “I don’t have time thing” is indeed legit if most of your peers go out for 2-4 hours at a time to do a ride, or climb, ski or paddle. Spending hours working out in a single clip is much more difficult to carve out of one’s schedule and many times, you have to ask yourself: Do I want to go work out, or do I want to see my family before bedtime? Depending on how often you’ve been home or not…you make the choice to actually spend time with family. 30 minutes can be carved out, sure, but it seems insignificant in comparison to what you’re used to, so you just opt out completely for a period of time. Nowadays, I feel ridiculously fat compared to many of my peers and I’m just starting to get back into biking, but I know part of it is just a skewed perspective. I’d love to be a little thinner, but I’m not in as horrible shape as I think I am. It’s just that the people I bike with are in ridiculous superhuman shape, but that’s what pushes you to be better. I don’t get annoyed when people talk about sports because I know it’s their passion, but I do get annoyed when people question my choice to spread myself across more interests than just sports.

    Wow..this was super rambly..sorry.

  13. BLG Says:

    I’m with Cloud on this one. Having a target weight can be very useful as a metric, although of course it can be taken to extremes. I was training for a marathon and still going up in clothing sizes because of a variety of food choices and other activities, which was neither fun nor frugal. (And believe me, this was not muscle weight.) Having a target weight has caused me to cut down a bit on the wine and bourbon, which I don’t mind at all in exchange for being able to still wear the pants I bought last year.

    In terms of why someone would be focused on a particular target weight, it could be likened to lifestyle inflation. I have a target weight and I want to stay there because if I move it up a few pounds this year it will just keep creeping up every year. And then – new pants. Again. And I like my old pants! Just like, “Oh, we’ll just spend a little out of our savings for that new car this one time.”

    Of course, it looks like the original article you were commenting on might have been too extreme, but I think a target weight works really well for me.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Your target weight doesn’t determine whether or not your pants fit though– your body composition combined with that target weight does, and you may get that body composition through a process. I do use pants fitting as a target because I hate buying new clothing… but that has little to do with a number on a scale. Muscle weighs more than fat and takes up less space. I can be skinny and out of shape and my pants will still fit.

  14. SP Says:

    Weight as a number is more about (to me) at what i know I feel/look like at a certain weight. I don’t gain weight easily, but I fell in love with running as a hobby. Fitness was a small motivator, but mostly stress relief and to keep the gray clouds away as best as I can.

    I generally feel better & more energetic when I work out & eat right. For my body, that goes hand in hand with a low number on the scale. So a number is more about what it symbolizes to me. Of course I’d be happy with a slightly higher number and more muscle, but it is WAY harder for me to gain muscle than lose weight (i.e. not worth the effort to me!). As I get older (and eventually have kids), I expect the level of effort will go up, and I’m not sure what that will mean for my choices and weight. Obviously, health is important and I’d love to run, but weight is another story.

  15. albe Says:

    I don’t see why she had to name her target weight. Why not just say she was within a couple pounds of her target? Naming the number is kind of obnoxious. However, it might not necessarily be unreasonably thin. Maybe she’s extra short. Maybe she has a small skeleton. I’m both short and have little bones, and 125 pounds would be solidly chubby on me.

    About the “having enough time” thing. It’s hard for me to think about that without also thinking about class. In the last year before my tenure bid, I made a conscious decision to put my all into work, so I either worked or spent time with my family, and did nothing else. No time for exercise. Yes, I had other priorities – not losing my job. Anyway, it sucked and I got tenure but paid a price with my health. Now that I am back into regularly exercising and doing other fitness things, I can’t help but think about what a privilege it is, one that not everybody has. Some people don’t have any flexibility in their schedules. They might have to work two jobs. Or commute two hours each way by bus to get to and from their jobs. Or have no access to safe places to walk or run outside, and no access to gyms or equipment. Having the time to actually devote to fitness is an incredible luxury, one I’m grateful for.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      No, 125 may not be unreasonably thin, but it seems that way from a truthiness perspective (which is why 150 or “a healthy weight” don’t seem to bother me as much, even though 150 really is a weight target, but the difference is that it’s at the top of a weight range that I can visualize rather than closer the bottom… so with 150 I can think, “150 or less” whereas 125 or less feels unhealthy, which obviously it isn’t if you’re even shorter than I am.)

      • Cloud Says:

        It does seem a little strange that you’d be OK with her picking a target weight if that weight were higher- even if that higher weight was actually unhealthy for her.

        And it feels a little weird to be discussing someone else’s weight like this, although I guess she did put it out there.

        I missed the post when it first came out because I’ve been a bit swamped at work and at home. Going and reading it now, the weight thing seems like a side point in the post really. The main message I got from it was that most parents can probably figure out how to make time for the one or two non-parenting things if those things are really priorities for them, and how two weeks into the parenting gig may be a little early to be making proclamations about what is and isn’t possible.

        Now, I haven’t gone and read the People interview, because I don’t actually care what is going on in Jillian Michaels’ life. So I can’t judge whether or not the blog post is being fair to her. But I have to say- I agree with that main message. Perhaps weight/fitness was a poor example to choose, since it is such a loaded area, with a lot of judgement and societal crap around it.

        With that said, I think both “sides” in the “new moms don’t have time to workout/anyone could get back in shape if they wanted to” argument are often guilty of over-generalizing their own experiences. Losing weight/getting fit is definitely harder for some people than for others, for a variety of reasons. But just because it is hard for one person, that doesn’t mean that it is “impossible” for all people who share membership in some group, like for instance “mothers”. And as someone who routinely does things that other mothers declare are impossible to combine with motherhood… I guess I’m sympathetic to how annoying those sorts of pronouncements are. Something may in fact be incompatible with motherhood FOR ONE PARTICULAR MOTHER. But that doesn’t say anything at all about whether or not it is incompatible with the general state of motherhood. I’m inclined to agree with Laura Vanderkam’s post on this point- very few things are actually incompatible with the general state of motherhood.

        OK, sorry. This got a bit tangent-y.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yup, it is weird that 150 wouldn’t bother me as much… but it isn’t because that might not be a healthy weight, but because from my perspective at my height with my experiences and so on 150 or less is more likely to be healthy than 125 or less. That’s because you can’t see people on the internet and very few of us know what is a healthy weight target for people different from ourselves. And because of heuristics and biases people tend to imagine what they know.

        I still don’t think that focusing on a number is a healthy thing to do or to talk about. And I think the main reason it bothers me is because it reminds me of living in a city where that’s what people talked about to pass the time and it was often not healthy. (See fad diets, injections, pills, surgery etc.) So no, not about Vanderkam herself, but about weight targets generally. The weight target is not what is important, the health target is.

      • Cloud Says:

        I can see how getting stuck in a social circle where people discussed weight targets and have unhealthy weight obsessions like that would sour you on the topic! I really cannot imagine any of the women I talk to regularly doing that. Or anyone, really, although I suspect there are pockets of that sort of behavior in my city, too, and I just don’t run into them often. We are a really outdoor activity oriented city, though, and I imagine the endless chit chat about surfing, biking, hiking, and the like probably gets annoying, too.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        If I’m gonna be overhearing playground conversation (or participating in a forum), I’d much rather hear about activities than weight. Especially when they’re talking about their little girls in addition to themselves. Nothing unhealthy about enjoying the bounty that the coast has to offer.

    • CG Says:

      She is kind of short IRL.

  16. Dr. O Says:

    I love my morning workout, but I hate getting up for my morning workout, and I don’t always the workout itself. I always like how I feel during the day when I get a run in – more energy and focus at work. I also like watching the scale when I’m working out, but not really to see if I’m getting to a target weight. I’m much more interested in how snug my pants are fitting – that seems to be the best measure of my fitness (although that bar has definitely changed since pregnancy!)

  17. chacha1 Says:

    I don’t own a scale. My primary tool for keeping myself honest is my tape measure.

    I don’t really worry about weight, but that’s because I know how several factors interrelate. I know that at 5’6″ and between 130-135 pounds I am comfortable and look good in a size 8 made by almost any manufacturer; my BMI is solidly in the normal range for the population and therefore my insurance premiums won’t go up; my waist measurement is 28-29 inches; and I sleep well, feel strong, and am full of energy. All I really have to keep track of is the waistline, and measuring twice a month is fine.

    I am a dancer with a desk job. I dance between 2-4 hours per week, and I do other exercise for 30 minutes per day on average (not counting stretching). Weight control (and overall health) is achieved almost entirely by what I put in my mouth. This is true for almost all people. As Steve says over at Nerd Fitness, “you can’t outrun your fork.”

    General speechifying: Sometimes an exercise program is necessary to get your body working right so that you actually CAN lose weight. The body is built to be active, we are not jellyfish that just float randomly through life. The less you move, the more physical problems you are likely to have – including resistant overweight and the syndromes that go with it.

    I think the conversation is always worth having, but I agree that one-upping and blaming and excusing and denying all play much too large a part in the conversation. The science can be complex, but it is not unintelligible. For most people, who don’t have true metabolic issues and just have a calorie imbalance issue, the science is incredibly simple.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      If one does have a metabolic issue, that’s no reason to give up. If eating healthily and exercising isn’t working, especially if you have other problems (irregular menstruation, gastro-intestinal issues etc.), getting a doctor to do a work-up for standard things like PCOS or thyroid or celiac can make an enormous difference, because lifestyle and medication changes for your specific problem can make you feel better in so many ways. It’s like getting glasses after spending most of your life near-sighted.

      • chacha1 Says:

        Exactly so. I encourage people who are having real trouble losing weight – after giving it an honest effort sans medical intervention – to get as many tests as they can afford, because finding out about these issues EARLY can make such an enormous difference to lifetime health.

        The cynical me suspects people (men AND women) who are making, at best, desultory efforts to lose weight sometimes blame metabolic issues because it’s easy … not because it’s accurate. People often do not want to hear “no there’s nothing wrong with your glands, and the only thing wrong with your digestive tract is that you are packing it full six times a day”. Most doctors won’t even say that. They’ll examine an overweight patient and never even mention, “hey, you know, studies show some patients can reverse Type II diabetes by losing just 10% of their body weight.”

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        PCOS and thyroid are a really simple blood test (well, technically the blood test is only *part* of the PCOS test because it is a syndrome and not a disease, but it is a good indicator of part of the syndrome and easier than a 4/d u/s of your ovaries). The 10% of your body weight thing is something that a lot of educated doctors say about PCOS as well. (There are not completely understood links between PCOS and IR and Type II Diabetes.)

        I found an online support group for PCOS to be invaluable in educating myself about how best to care for my health, in conjunction with medical treatment (and reading books and articles). It is insane how switching from a low-fat diet to a high-fat glycemically balanced diet made *everything* so much easier. But I wouldn’t have known that without the diagnosis and lots of education. And once things are easier and you start seeing results, things don’t seem so hopeless and it can be easier to try other things.

      • mareserinitatis Says:

        You know, I have to say that I go back and forth on this issue. I have had a LOT of medical issues relating to food and metabolism, and doctors were really not much help finding the problem at all. Most of the solutions came because of research I have done on my own. In fact, most of the advice I’ve gotten from the medical community (even in terms of exercise! I was encouraged to not run and spend more time walking…when I was already walking 7 hours per week!) has actually been counter to what seems to work for me, *especially* in regard to nutrition.

        My dad spent years trying to lose weight. The man *gained* weight on Weight Watchers, and was eating less than my mom (who was a waif at that point). It wasn’t until I started the restriction on carby foods that he was actually able to find something that helped him lose weight, as well.

        So between the issues I’ve been dealing with and watching my father struggle for *decades* with this stuff…and both of us being treated like lazy hypochondriacs in the interim…that I really can understand why people give up. As I said above, I never have been able to achieve a ‘goal weight’, and repeatedly failing like that leaves you to feel like a failure. But when you talk to doctors, they aren’t good at dealing with these nutritional issues (hell, I love my GI, but he has no idea what FODMAPs are and how badly I’ve had to restrict my diet). I think that after a certain amount of struggling, all but the most dedicated people are going to give up…and when you do get a lot of mixed messages from the medical and fitness communities, especially ones suggesting that your failures are due to laziness or lack of will power rather than individual medical issues, you just finally get sick of hearing about it and decide not to care anymore.

        What I LIKE to see are things like the sponsored walks in the community. Our university has a list of maps for different walking routes on campus. (And bonus! No air pollution to set off asthma!) I’ll say one of the *biggest* motivators I’ve seen is the local marathon in the spring. People who have no interest in ‘exercise’ will decide they want to participate. How many doctors try to encourage their patients to get involved in these types of things instead of blaming the patient for their medical problems? As far as I can tell, blaming is a pretty tried and true method for discouraging positive behavioral changes.

        Sorry…I guess I’m into writing books today. I just personally find this topic very frustrating…

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        No, that’s exactly why having an online community was so helpful once I knew what my problem was. Either doctors know about PCOS or they don’t, and the ones that don’t recommend exactly the wrong thing. Having an online support group that’s educated in the syndrome helps in finding doctors who know what they’re talking about!

        What really sucks is that I’ve had PCOS symptoms since I was about 13, but did not get diagnosed, as is often the case, until I started trying to have children. You can have all the symptoms and they’re really obnoxious symptoms and doctors just say, “you’ll grow out of it, you’re still a teen/in your 20s” and that’s that. And they put you on the wrong kind of birth control pill which just aggravates the problem. (And don’t get me started on Gyn vs. Endo…) It’s incredibly frustrating and we do have to take a lot of agency for ourselves which is difficult when we don’t have MDs and don’t even know where to start looking.

      • chacha1 Says:

        After the past 30+ years of low-fat propaganda from food manufacturers, it’s no wonder (but a shame) that a high-fat diet seems so scary or counter-intuitive. I eat non-fat yogurt & cottage cheese, but gimme my premium cheese, my half-&-half, my eggs, nuts, olive oil & avocados, and I *never* trim fat from meat before cooking – only after. I cook ground bison, or grass-fed beef, instead of feed-lot beef and I never skim the fat before finishing the dish.

        It is a good thing you are smart and motivated, and (since I like you gals) I am glad you’ve found ways to stay healthier despite a challenging metabolic profile! :-)

  18. femmefrugality Says:

    I think people that complain about their weight or how fat they are publicly are doing it as more of a social nicety than stating that it is their priority. Skinny women who do it do it for attention. “I’m so fat,” is a great way to get someone to segway into, “No, you’re not. Shut up.” If I’m overweight (don’t feel like I am right now,) and I say, “Yeah, I need to get rid of some of this pudge,” I feel like that’s just stating that you know you don’t fit into a socially accepted norm, and you feel the need to apologize for it for some reason.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      In some parts of the country it seems to be like talking about weather is in the midwest. Personally I’d rather stick to the weather.

    • Kara Says:

      Ya know .. the thing is if I had worried about that 5lb when I was “skinny” and worked to take it off .. I’d have never ballooned to 260 lbs. But because I figured 5lbs was stupid to worry about and made me obsessive and obnoxious, I gained 5lb and 5lb and 5lb and 5lb … and all of a sudden I was 260lb and wearing a size 26. I wish people would quit being so judgmental of “skinny” women who complain about 5lb. I wish to god I’d worried about 5lb when I weighed 130 instead of having to worry about 130lb when I weighed 260lb.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The thing is, a lot of skinny women who complain about those 5lb are actually healthier *with* those 5lb. There are healthy weight ranges and different people have different body types etc. And it’s not the weight that is the important outcome… an additional 5lb could easily be monthly water weight, it could be additional muscle mass, and so on. Again, healthy living what is important, and if you’re living healthily and don’t have a metabolic problem, you’re unlikely to reach 260lb, and you may end up at a healthy weight even if it’s not the one you were at when you were 16.

        Additionally, it’s really rude for someone who is skinny to complain to a friend with a higher weight, because if skinny person A is fat, then what are they saying about not as skinny person B? Of course, if skinny people stick to complaining about people who weigh even less than they do, they’re more likely to be feeding anorexia, which is also dangerous.

        Much better to complain about needing to exercise or to get in shape or needing to get more vitamins or fiber etc.

      • Kara Says:

        I might add, you who have OBVIOUSLY never had a weight problem or an emotional eating problem. Wow. I’m just beyond offended and enraged at your totally rude and HATEFUL point of view.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Emotional eating problems are not healthy (this response may not make sense given the deletion of the other two comments, but to sum, she was offended by this specific quote, “if you’re living healthily and don’t have a metabolic problem, you’re unlikely to reach 260lb”). And emotional eating problems are a product of food-as-something other than nutrition, which can be exacerbated by the focus on weight, appearance, and so on… there’s a pretty large literature on that.

        Have used the moderation stick on your other two comments. Personal attacks and profanity are not welcome. This one gets to stay as you’re allowed to be offended here.

      • Kara Says:

        It gets to stay as it doesn’t contradict your patriarchal response. I stood in my ktichen this afternoon and cried over your hateful and ugly response.

  19. Roxie Says:

    Great post and exceptional comment thread. Moose, the typist for my blog (I’m a dead dog, for those of you who don’t know), lost a significant amount of weight (50+ lbs.) last year. While she was losing, she refused to pick a target weight, precisely because she didn’t want to be obsessed with a number. When she reached a place that felt comfortable, she put herself on maintenance — and went on to drop another 10 pounds. That weight (smack dab in the middle of the healthy BMI range for her height) has become a target that she is kinda but not obsessively focused on maintaining. She goes up or down a few pounds and doesn’t worry about it, but when the movement is mostly up, as it has been recently, she pays attention and makes adjustments to try to reverse the trend. She knows from previous experience that if she gets into a situation where she is saying, “Oh, it’s just a pound — or three,” that pretty soon she’ll have put on five and then ten pounds and — Well, you know how that goes. She’s never published her weight on the blog and wouldn’t, because the numbers game, particularly among women, is so destructive. We’ve tried really hard in writing about weight and body issues to avoid fat-shaming, and the numbers game is hugely shaming (though Moose’s target is higher than most women’s because she is tall [5/9"]). Nonetheless, she weighs in every morning, and the number on the scale is a factor in decisions she will make throughout the day about eating and activity.

    Regarding exercise and finding time to do it: Moose’s rule while she was losing weight and trying to return to a commitment to regular exercise that she had maintained for most of her adult life, was a firm yet flexible, “What I can, when I can.” That has worked well as she has worked to maintain her weight loss. She’s not looking to run another marathon, but she’s committed to working in enough activity to feel good, be reasonably fit, and permit a certain amount of indulgence with regard to food and drink. Such pleasures are essential to the happiness of all the humans in Roxie’s World, as, I imagine, they are in your worlds.

    Thanks again for a wonderful post and comment thread.

    • chacha1 Says:

      “What I can, when I can” is a great philosophy. Well done to Moose. :-)

      btw the thought of running a marathon is anathema to me. I will happily dance for 2+ hours, but run? nuh-uh.

  20. Anandi Raman Creath (@anandi) Says:

    Apparently I’m late to the party but thanks for the shout out (I’m houseofpeanut).

    I guess for me weight/fitness/whatnot falls into the category of “no one else’s business”. Yes, I may bitch aboutbeing overweight on my blog, and yes, I know that regular exercise and eating right will fix it. But right now I cannot make that a priority. It does take more than 30 min a day, and I have other things I’d rather focus on. I don’t directly talk/complain about it to friends but I do hate that my daughter is constantly being bombarded with messages about being “healthy” which is American code for “skinny”.

    LVKs post bugged me too (obviously) because I have history with weight loss, mostly unsuccessful. And just because it’s easy/worked for someone else/they enjoy it doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone. Her posting her weight target did make me feel bad about myself (her target is what I should weigh, but have never weighed as an adult) but I figure it’s her blog so she’s entitled to a little bragging for her hard work. I think it was just the dismissal that for *some people* jumping right back into a fitness program after becoming a parent might actually be VERY HARD. personally, I choose sleep right now :)

    But the crux of this is that I am terrified of how to raise my daughter(s) in a way that they can be happy about their appearance and not spend so much time and energy (and money!!!) as I and my mom have in lamenting our non-perfect figures. Sigh.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t mind the term healthy– maybe it’s because I haven’t lived in the pacific northwest, I don’t think of it as a code for skinny. (Places I’ve lived either they don’t talk about healthy or they go directly to weight and health has nothing to do with it.) Healthy to me implies energy, eating fruits and veggies (and meat for me!), sleeping enough, getting appropriate medication if needed (this one is big given my health history), not being winded when I walk up stairs etc.

      Some very good evidence that lack of sleep leads to obesity– they’re even figuring out pathways to that. So not so insane to prioritize sleep over exercise.

      In terms of my immediate reaction, one of my first thoughts was, “Does it bug me because 125 doesn’t seem achievable to me and I think it should be?” But that can’t be it, because even though 125 is in my “healthy weight range” (and these ranges are also problematic) it’s below the weight non-pregnant me feels comfortable or looks good at. I think what bugs me is that my first thought includes “I should think 125 is a weight I should be”… and I’m relatively sure there’s no healthy way I could reach 125… getting there would involve losing muscle or starving myself and obsessing to a degree that listening to my body’s needs does not involve. I don’t like the way the number causes pressure and that I have to think through why.

      Humans are social animals and there’s a lot of evidence that we like to follow the pack. People pick the same retirement options that their friends at the company have picked because it’s a difficult maximization problem and it’s just easier to focus on the number/allocation that someone else has already decided is the right one. But people are different so just latching onto the same number can get the wrong allocation… better to latch on to the same process because it’s more likely to get the right results despite personal differences.

    • chacha1 Says:

      I recomment a non-appearance-oriented sport. Like martial arts. I don’t know a single person who has done a course of martial arts who hasn’t come out feeling both physically invincible, and very happy with their body and what it can do. And the “uniforms” are gender-neutral … I like that.

    • GMP Says:

      It does take more than 30 min a day, and I have other things I’d rather focus on.

      Exactly, Anandi. I am on sabbatical this year, so have much more flexibility than usual. I exercise 5 days a week at a kickboxing studio that’s 5 min from my home. It takes me 5 min to get there 5 min early (need to put on gloves and shoes), 45 min to exercise, 5 min to clean up my bag and take off gloves and shoes, 5 min to drive back home, about 25 min to shower and do my hair. So no, that’s not 30 min a day, that’s an hour-and-a-half a day (if you add pumping that I need to do before sitting down to work, we’re approaching 2 hours), and my situation is as ideal as it gets in terms of location. No, I don’t think it’s trivial to fit exercise into your day, especially if you have a demanding job and family. The only way I do it is by chipping away from work, which I can only do now because I have an academic job and have received tenure. People without job flexibility have it much harder.

      Regarding some of the comments I have read up-thread, here’s an analogy they remind me of:
      I am an ex-smoker. I can tell you that some of the most obnoxious, hateful anti-smoking vigilantes are ex-smokers (not all, of course). These particularly obnoxious ones — who insist that if they did it, then everyone can and not quitting is just a sign on a weak and pathetic psyche etc etc — somehow believe that having been a smoker and having successfully conquered the challenge gives them an aura of holiness (or something) in addition to unquestionable knowledge on the subject, and therefore apparently a license to bully everyone who is still smoking or struggling to quit.

  21. Laura Vanderkam (@lvanderkam) Says:

    As the person whose weight loss and world view is being discussed here, I thought I’d weigh in (as it were). A few things — I agree with Cloud about numbers being a surrogate marker. They make for goals that are easier to focus on than more nebulous ones. It’s the same thing with money. One could aim for, say, a million dollars in assets. Are you just as well off with $990,000 or $1,010,000? Of course. And, in fact, the number will fluctuate between those if you’re invested. But the number is a goal that then spurs you to ramp up saving. As for being 1.5 lbs above the target, I weigh myself post-run and record if there’s a new low. So 126.5 is the lowest I’ve recorded in this process. It’s on the low end of the range in a given day then — meaning that I know I do still have a few pounds to go (I’d like to hit 125 more regularly — having it be in the middle of the range). But beyond that, I’m a little flummoxed by this idea that weight loss has been easy for me, and hence I can’t understand that it’s hard for other people. It has been difficult for me. Hence the multitude of blog posts! As for weight loss being some indication that I’m oppressed by the patriarchy, I’d say that the notion that moms can’t pursue fitness goals because they shouldn’t take time for themselves is far more in line with what I imagine the patriarchy thinking.

    • becca Says:

      You are right that the notion women *shouldn’t* take time for their own goals is patriarchy BS.

      However, the patriarchy says women must be sexually attractive to men. Weight loss is closer to sexual attractiveness* than, say, resting BP or muscle mass or ability to lift large weights over one’s head or a myriad of other reasonable fitness goals. All of them are only partial pictures of ‘fitness’ and definitely surrogate markers for ‘health’. But on weight loss itself, there’s a lot of messages that that MUST be a goal for women, SO that they can be attractive (which is of course of the utmost importance). That’s bigtime patriarchy.

      *sexual attractiveness defined here as a cultural consensus, as evidenced by the media. not by what your own personal awesome honey tells you he finds sexy about you, cause you are oh-so healthy and strong and great at Tae Kwon Do.

      Also, it’s non of my gosh darn business, but I really like that you view weight as a variable number, but I don’t so much like the idea of weighing in only after a run… don’t they tell athletes to weigh before and after and to drink way more water if the number goes down?

  22. gwinne Says:

    At five feet tall, the only times in my life I’ve ever weighed 125 I’ve been pregnant. Just sayin’.

  23. 2012 in review « Grumpy rumblings of the half-tenured Says:

    [...] Your most commented on post in 2012 was Musings on why weight targets bother me [...]

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