Just over a year ago I published my most shared blog post to date: I’m Calling for a New Paradigm. My experience during what I now refer to as my ‘Fitness Model Diet’ fundamentally changed my approach to weight loss and fitness. I’d like to share some of the internal shifts I’ve made in the last year, and relate them to the trends I observe in the Fitness Industry.
First a brief review of my Fitness Model Diet. Over the course of 12 weeks, I dropped from a weight of 160 to 148 (at my lowest) and a body fat percentage of 12%. I hovered between 148 and 152 for about 2 months, and began to experience some symptoms of underweight and undereating, in spite of being at a scale weight that qualified as healthy and consuming 2200-2400 calories a day, which most people would consider not only adequate but probably quite indulgent. Perhaps more concerning, I also began to develop symptoms of body dysmorphia, a sign of disordered eating. I recognized what was happening to me and ended my experiment. To read a more in depth account of my experiences, click on the post I linked above, as well as this one, the follow up I wrote a couple months later.
In the months following, I increased my calories to where they’d been before my experiment and regained weight to 160 pounds. My symptoms resolved very quickly and my health and weight have been stable ever since. (More recently I’ve decided to purposely gain more weight in order to add some lean mass and hopefully see strength gains in the gym, I’ll discuss this further down).
My biggest takeaway from this whole experience was a new understanding of body fat; not only it’s role in maintaining metabolic health, but the disordered view our culture has of it. While it’s clear that in great excess body fat can impact health negatively, what is less commonly understood is that a certain amount of body fat is essential for health, particularly in women. Body fat is not an inert substance. In addition to insulating internal organs and storing energy, it plays a role in the production of hormones (including leptin, estrogen and resistin), and regulation of endocrine function. Just as too much body fat can throw hormonal regulation out of balance, so also can too little.
In the last year, I’ve taken a step back from the pursuit of fat loss that had been my primary focus for several years. I’ve begun to evaluate the messages the Fitness Industry sends with a more critical eye. What I see really disturbs me.
Fat Loss at All Costs
A simple Google search of the terms ‘diet’ and ‘fitness’ reveals that fat loss is THE defining goal of virtually every fitness and diet program. Try to find a ‘success story’ that doesn’t hinge on the visible reduction of body fat. Fat loss is, quite simply, THE barometer of success in this world. When fat loss is achieved, the program is deemed successful. Most programs are marketed specifically as fat loss plans. We are, as a culture, myopically obsessed with fat loss.
The human body requires a certain degree of ‘fatness’ for proper endocrine function. Women need more fat than men, and some women need more fat than others. As the body approaches that lower limit of adequate fat reserves, it initiates endocrine adaptations that inhibit further loss (downregulation of metabolism, loss of reproductive function, catabolism of lean mass, etc), such that the leaner a person is, the more extreme the measures they will need to engage in in order to see continued fat loss. The fitness and diet industry are ready with products to sell! Programs that place extreme restrictions on calories and macronutrients, and exercise routines that require extreme degrees of intensity or duration, usually combined. And it works! These extreme diets force the body to drop even more fat, with spectacular aesthetic results that are illustrated in dramatic before and after photos.
A clear message emerges from these dramatic images: Fat loss is good! Weight loss is success! Fat is bad! Weight gain is failure!
The end result is that healthy people at healthy weights internalize the message that they need to lose weight, because they don’t look like the bodies in the after pictures, so clearly they aren’t successfully managing their weight! They engage in increasingly extreme dietary restriction. Enough is never enough. There is always more fat to lose, another diet that promises fat loss success. Smaller and smaller we get.
I’ve experienced this mentality over and over during the last year as my weight has steadily increased. Every time I post on my facebook page about my weight gain, I get advice about how to turn it around. Even when I say specifically that I am gaining weight on purpose, I still get advice about how to lose weight. It’s like my words don’t even register beyond the weight gain. If I’ve gained weight it must be bad, and I must want to change it. The concept of a person, especially a woman, intentionally gaining weight is completely foreign. Even when I say ‘I am gaining weight on purpose’, a few people always seem to hear ‘help me figure out how to lose weight’. It is surreal. One person posted elsewhere that my diet ‘clearly isn’t working for her, since she’s gained 10-15 pounds recently’. See that? Weight gain = failure. End of story.
Obviously there are many people for whom fat loss is a healthy goal. When weight and body fat become a threat to a person’s health, weight and fat loss is important. But there comes a point at which the hyperfocus on fat loss becomes unhealthy. When a person is at a healthy weight, pursuing fat loss is no longer a health-promoting goal, it is at best an aesthetic pursuit, and at worst a risk to long-term health. The body will resist losing those last pounds of essential fat, and forcing the issue can set up a metabolic state that leads to adverse health outcomes and potentially even trigger eating disorders. Fat loss isn’t always good.
So, over the last year I’ve shifted my own goals, and I’ve also reevaluated the approach to weight loss I use with clients. I’ve been eating at a small calorie surplus and am now hovering right around 170 pounds. I have, essentially, gained 20 pounds in the last year. My current weight puts me just over the ‘healthy weight’ cut off on the BMI scale, I am officially overweight. In the last year, the primary focus of my training and diet has been strength and mass gains. I have gained some lean mass, and I’ve also gained some fat. This is not a failure. I am not planning to ‘cut’ after some arbitrarily approved ‘bulking’ period. In fact, as of right now, I have no plans to lose weight or fat, ever again. I do not wish that all my gains had been muscle. There is nothing wrong with gaining some fat. It does not make me inadequate or undesirable or unhealthy. Even having a BMI that qualifies as overweight doesn’t make me any of those things. My weight is just a number. A data point. It is not a value judgement. Do you want to see the body that a year of eating lots of food and focus on GAINS has produced?
For reference, here is the body that restriction and focus on fat loss produced:
Neither body is ‘better’. Some people will find my current body more attractive, others will find my leaner body more attractive, others still will find both hideously unattractive. It’s ok. I’m not here to tell you one body type is better than another, or fish for compliments, or try to garner anyone’s approval for the choices I make for my own body.
What I AM here to tell you is that there is another way. That fat loss doesn’t HAVE to be your goal. That all different body types can be healthy and beautiful. That you can be more if you want to. That less isn’t the only acceptable option. That if the endless pursuit of fat loss isn’t making you happy, isn’t improving the quality of your life, isn’t working…you can choose another approach. Choosing another approach isn’t failure. It is simply different, and there is a place in this world for different. We are not all shaped the same.
These days when clients approach me for weight management coaching, the first thing I have them do is really evaluate where they are. Many, many people who believe they need to lose weight are actually, objectively, already at a healthy weight. Trying to force their body to shed more weight, more fat, may not be the most health- and quality of life- affirming option. Taking an approach of building a stronger foundation may be a more sustainable, and ultimately more enjoyable, choice. Choosing to end the relentless pursuit of fat loss is not an admission of defeat, it is not a failure. It can be a very healthy, very positive statement of self-respect.
I can’t tell you which body you should like better, but I CAN tell you which one eats ice cream, kills workouts and has more sex. The ‘overweight’ one.
To lean more about my approach to eating to support a healthy weight, check out my ebook Taking Up Space: A Guide to Escaping the Diet Maze, and check out my other blog posts on the subject:
Adrenal Fatigue as a Cover for Starvation
Healthy Diet or Disordered Thinking?
Body Composition: That 'Last Five Pounds', and How to Deal With 'Problem Areas'
Join the conversation on my Facebook page!
For more information on some of the topics discussed here:
Minnesota Starvation Experiment
Endocrine Response to Anorexia
Endocrine Response to Typical Dieting
Such a simple and clear message, yet so few ever seem to be able to comprehend it.
What’s interesting is if you spend any time on the various “body building” sites where people can post advice to each other, the majority of the conversations revolve around how one can make gains. And while yes, these are still more often discussions between men, there are an increasing number of women on these sites as well, asking the same questions. And both the men and women who frequent these sites award significant praise to other men and women who are gaining muscle mass. This is not to say that the folks on these sites don’t care about or comment on body fat % and fat loss, for they most definitely do (many of them have hopes of competing, and there is a very specific physique that is required to place in a fitness competition) – but overall they value strong and jacked over skinny/waif-like/starved.
But in the general public (especially in the media) we are still told over and over again that we can not possibly attain nirvana until we lose, lose, LOSE! Gotta be the Biggest Loser! Have to do workouts with “Insanity” in the name! Do you ever wonder why all those photos we all used to see in Nat Geo growing up depicted starving children in Africa with scrawny little limbs, yet huge protruding bellies, even though they had nothing to eat?! And people (women mostly) wonder why these extreme diets and extreme calorie restrictions tend to backfire over time…
You look fine either way. Haters gonna hate.
Wow, this was great to see! I competed last year and felt really awesome and weak in the tiny body I finally achieved. I lost my period for over a year as a result but since then, my goal has been weight gain so I could get back normal bodily functions. Well, I’ve achieved that. Like you, I’ve made strength gains and muscle gains along with some fat gain. By no means do I look fat, but I still feel like a failure because my body needed me to have this fat. I wish my mind would shift to being happy with where I’m at but I still find it difficult. So I avoid the mirror. It sucks that I would rather look like the lean me but the lean me can’t make a family…
This is me as well. I decided I would rather have babies '?
Just another proof that weight/BMI is stupid! I stopped caring about my weight a long time ago, now I just need to focus less on fat loss as well. I think your phylosophy is great and I’m slowly but surely getting there.
Great post! You’re definitely right that fat loss isn’t the be all, end all. I think it’s great to have other health goals whose pursuit doesn’t cause one to have a distorted body image.
Focusing on a goal that involves doing something you love (like hiking a particularly strenuous trail, or beating a specific time on a run, or squatting a certain weight, etc) is, in my opinion, a better way to judge your health and a more mentally and physically healthy goal to have.
this is an AWESOME post and I think you look amazing at 170 – seriously amazing!!
I’m 5’9″ and 192 pounds which is overweight but that’s after 4 1/2 years of lifting weights religiously. I think my biggest problem is eating enough because I have a Pavlovian reaction when I step on the scale and see 192 pounds, when I was in my 20’s I weighed 155. I try to remind myself that the weight gain is a sign that I am succeeding at weight training.
Thank you. Perfect message for me in the midst of my body image confusion.
I love you. '?
I would love to see this message perpetrated across every “diet”, food, gym, etc. industry.
I’d like to see ALL the doctors buy into it and tell their patients “Fat loss is not what you need. Proper nutrition and some movement is what you need.”
I wish I had seen and internalized this message earlier – say, before the bariatric surgery that my doctor convinced me that I absolutely needed to live past my 45th birthday.
Live and learn. '?
Thank you for posting this – I will be sharing amongst family and friends.
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I really needed to read this today. I will not tell you my entire life story, but I will say that I have always struggled with my weight. Ever since I was 15, working out has been my therapy and something I love doing, but it was more for maintenance and to keep me feeling good. Lately, my life has been really great. I have a good job, an amazing boyfriend who loves me unconditionally, fantastic family and friends, and yet, my weight and my problems with it have been tearing me up. I work out every day. Ever since I was 15, working out has been my therapy and something I love doing. I wanted to be healthy and lose weight the right way and so I began seeing a nutrionist. This isn’t helping. I still burst into tears on a daily basis when I think about my weight, and how “unfair” it is that I’ve had to struggle with it my entire life. I decided recently to begin therapy because I believe my problems go much deeper than just my weight. I am also doing it because In every other aspect of my life I am happy, but this one thing is beginning to bleed into my daily life and I don’t want it to. I don’t want to miss out on life because I’m so worried about being the “perfect” size. I eat right. I work out daily. I should be happy with that because I am healthy. I NEEDED this article today. Thank you for sharing your story. This is the first time I have read your words, but it will definitely not be the last. Thank you a million times over.
I would like to know more
This message hits close to home. For almost 10 years I have been fit, but I got to a point where I wanted to look like the fitness models. I spent a whole year focusing on perfecting my diet and training 6 days a week. I even competed in a fitness competition. I had noticed that I had changed a lot! All I could think about was food. My “fitness” life became my main focus in life. It got to the point where I’d get nervous just to go on vacation because I wasn’t sure what I’d eat and preparing all my food could become overwhelming. I noticed that I felt like I had become disordered in my way of thinking. I had to remember what I was like before I had maintained an extra lean body. It took me almost a year to get away from this thinking and gain some fat on my body. The sad part is people really praised my extra lean body and wanted what I had (trust me it was not a fun lifestyle, you tell yourself it is, but it really isn’t in my opinion). I’ve gained 10 lbs and I feel so much more feminine, sexy and strong. Not to mention, I regained back my life. When food is your main focus in life then maybe that’s your body telling you its starving! Just my opinion and experience of course. Loved the post and thanks for sending out the message. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way.
Awesomeness. You rock. Preach on, Amber!! Vive la revolution
Yes to everything. You are awesome. I am in the Navy and even though I wear a size 8-10, at 5’8″, I am only 10 pounds under my weight “limit.” I hate it- I want to continue building a little more muscle but feel like I can’t gain any more actual weight without getting a hard time from my command and being stressed about it. So I feel like I HAVE to lose some fat in the process, even though I’m at a perfectly healthy and womanly fat level. It’s absurd. I definitely would not want to lose more than 10 lbs of fat right now. But we measure everything and everyones’ self-worth by numbers. Thanks for sharing this important message that weight doesn’t matter. I wear the same size uniform that I did when I enlisted, 25 pounds lighter. I just look and feel healthier now. You look awesome btw!
I’m sorry you have to deal with that stress, Tara! What a pain … you’d think the military would be more about strength than weight. Stay strong & thank you for your service!
Yes! And thank you. Your posts always seem to come at the right time for me and this one is no exception. Bravo!
This is nice, real nice, real nice. But we mustn’t forget the enormous, looming, public-health atom-bomb that mass obesity is. The war on fat is being fought to attain real public health goals that can save the lives of millions around the world. It’s not a question of individualism; “what works” for a well-paid and articulate member of the middle classes with enough leisure time to exercise for fun (!) simply isn’t important to be worth talking about. Ideological consistency is paramount, or else the entire project is doomed.
Indeed, which is why I was sure to mention twice that fat loss is indicated in some situations. I have other posts about healthy weight loss, this specific post isn’t meant to apply to everyone. This is one that would apply more to the public health issue that you raise:
Moderation is Evidence Based
Personally, I think most of the people for whom fat loss is indicated would benefit more from focusing on improving what their body can do than what it looks like. It isn’t as if the five or ten minutes twice a week it takes to start a basic bodyweight movement routine is prohibitive.
“Comrade,” you better keep to the nonfat Yoplait and Lean Cuisine for “ideological consistency.” And leave the great cream, butter & cheese for me!
So, how does on determine one’s best weight in relation to health? You mention that have better sex and imply that you enjoying eating more at your current weight. What else helped you determine that the weight you are at is better than your lower weight?
It’s pretty subjective, and I needed to get out of the aesthetics mindset and really tune into how my body was feeling and performing. We are conditioned to focus on appearance, so it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. I wrote a blog post a while back on the process I went through when finding my ideal weight, here it is.
What do you think of the weight setpoint theory that was sort of confirmed by the Minnesota starvation experiment after Ww2?
I think there’s something to it, I also think set points aren’t totally set in stone, but in order to change them we need to think in terms of YEARS, not weeks and months.
Wow. Awesome. I wish you lived in L.A….!
Thank you so much for this article – I love every word for it. I also have a question.
Do you think that genetics determine what amount of bodyfat is a healthy range for an individual person? I think this may perpetuate some of the problem. When I involve myself in fitness, I like to surround myself with other people who have the same interest, and then I end up seeing a lot of a particularly body type that I end up envying and wanting, regardless of whether it is safe/attainable for me. How to know what is and isn’t? I think there are clear signs when things are going wrong – fatigue, illness, grumpiness, hormonal problems etc.. – but these can also be caused by many other things in life (stress, etc.).
I love the idea of focusing on happiness and overall healthness, and I think this is the best way to achieve whatever your body is meant for, especially if you are in a healthy weight range. But for those of us still learning to unmarry ourselves from the idea of fat loss or an ideal body type, how would you suggest deciding what is safe and healthy?
This is awesome.
I have been running since middle school, and have always had big legs. At the beginning of high school, I quit eating and ran long long miles desperately trying to get “below 120”. I had always hovered around 140, but wasn’t fat. My times suffered, I was miserable, and I remember going into the Dr for a physical and him circling BMI as being “overweight”. I completely quit trying to be thin and started trying to win.
Years later, I still get the little BMI warning that comes up when I get a physical, but I’m okay with that. Thanks for your article. It is spot on.
Your body composition looks nearly identical to mine. When I think of what Healthy looks like, I think of you. Because of your voice in my head, I’ve stopped worrying about the jiggle on my thighs when I train. I wear shorts now with pride — I thank my thighs and round ass for their hard work when I backsquat my body weight or pull a bar off the floor. My arms aren’t thin, so when a shirt doesn’t fit, I get a bigger size and square my shoulders because I can do a couple of pullups. You are an inspiration and the voice of reason in this obsessive, idealistic, compulsive society! Thanks again for your words of healing. We need this.
“Weight” is nothing more than a measurement of the strength of Earth’s gravitational pull on our mass. Who wants to be a lightweight? Not me. I belong here.
Keep up feeding us these words of anecdotal wisdom to counteract all the poison we’ve swallowed through the years from the media! Encore, I say!
'Weight' is nothing more than a measurement of the strength of Earth's gravitational pull on our mass. Who wants to be a lightweight? Not me. I belong here.
Loved this! Such a good way to look at it!!!
Even though my focus has never been on weight loss, I notice with the workouts that I do, I have to keep a calorie surplus just to sustain energy to do so!
You look like an amazing 170 to me, and I prefer the “overweight” look over the undernourished look..
Keep up the inspiration!! '?
Out of nerdy scientific curiosity (have a BS in nutrition and heading for an RD internship), did you start to notice any irregularity in your menstrual cycle when you were at 12% body fat?
Yes, the final straw was actually missing a period. I had been very regular for about 5 years, and suddenly it just vanished. That’s when I knew I needed to stop.
finally, a voice of reason in a world of craziness. you look sickly at the lower weight and you look healthy at the 170lbs.
I had someone on my Facebook share your post and I must say, I am so happy to see someone who is feeling the way I feel! '? I have a friend who is training with me at the gym, well she is showing me what and what not to do at the gym because my husband isn’t want to join up just yet (even though he is a prior Marine and knows what to do boo on him). But she is trying to get down to such a low body fat % and when we went and grabbed dinner afterwards, I wanted a cheeseburger and she gave me a stink eye look… like I was completely undoing everything I had just done. I am not one for salads everyday of the week. I like my fruits and veggies. I prefer to eat what I crave and try to eat stuff that is as natural as possible. Me and my husband are TRYING to stay away from boxed and canned items, it can be difficult at times… and I cannot wait to have more time to find better for you meals. I currently work full-time and he is at school full-time and works part-time… oh and we have a kid. I haven’t been to the gym in a few weeks since life has been a little crazy lately. But I am hoping once my husband graduates in August life will slow down and I can lose full-time availability and drop down to part-time and have more time to better myself physically and healthily. It is so easy to just go through a drive-thru when you get off work, forgot to pull out something for dinner, and it is already 7pm and you have an 8pm bedtime for the little one.
But thank you. I will definitely be bookmarking your blog.
LOVE it! I know I need to lose a lot of fat at this point, but I want to be healthy, not skinny. You are a shining example of what people should be striving for, instead of the unattainable fitness model look that is becoming so popular.
Thank you so much for sharing your story here. It gives me hope that one day I can reach a similar point in my attempts to adopt a healthier lifestyle. '?
You look awesome! Whoever & their charts that says you’re overweight is just WRONG!
I’m so glad I found your blog! I have read it all. Yea, all of it, some posts multiple times! When I found your blog I was stuck, I didn’t know what to eat anymore so I was eating minimally. The thought of interacting with food was unnerving. Every time I had to make a food choice I felt like a deer in the headlights. What do I do, will this be the right choice? Low Carb/High Fat? Calorie Restriction? Low Fat? Paleo? Is it Clean? All the fad diets out there make me crazy and confused.
In the beginning of May, my weight reached an all time high I hit 290 lbs. I’m 5’5 with a large frame weight/fat loss is my goal. I used the calculator (with all the dials) to determine what I burn and how much I should be eating. I’m done with all the hype, I figured out the calories and started eating food.
I’ve lost 6.6 lbs since May 8 just by eating enough food to fuel my body! I haven’t been able to exercise because of an injury from a fall, the Dr. said to let my hip rest. That was 5 weeks ago, I’m cleared for activity and began walking on my treadmill last night.
Thank you for putting this information out here. so many people need to hear your message.
The whole food, body,diet, image, good, bad mentality is such a mind #[email protected]#!!!
I look back on pictures of myself at considerably lower weights and remember how it was never good enough, yet I want to continually believe I was happier then! I wasn’t! It was just easier to distract myself from facing the issues in my life by perpetuating self loathing and making my unhappiness about my body not the real areas that were lacking.
Lately I’ve really tried to listen to myself. I started juicing, I still eat what I crave and am surprised at the reduction of guilt and shame.I crave much better foods and still love some crap! I spend more time on the things that create happiness..It’s really tough to take care of ones “self”. It takes time and energy and quiet and a calmness which is very difficult to achieve if you’ve lived a racetrack paced over achievement lifestyle.
I really appreciate your posts and pictures and honesty and being able to see that time does heal…just let it happen. Stay the course, hold your convictions, KEEP GOING! It works. It’s not easier to succumb to old mentalities that are hidden traps such as quick weight loss, severe caloric reduction, BMI charts, peoples opinions, Doctors statistics and scale numbers. We are good, we are perfect, we are allowed to BE! We are allowed to care for ourselves and be loved and admired by ourselves.
I always remember now that everything I see and read in the media has been put there to create profits…period… I don’t even look at health and fitness publications anymore. Don’t ever be fooled. Even the best publications are there for profit and advertising revenue and they are manipulated by corporate selling interests. I am not saying all are bad or offer bad advice, just be careful where you put your trust and faith and remember the motivations behind the transfer of information.
I look for posts like these and rely on real people and real results and real advice from people who have no endorsements and nothing to gain by sharing their stories.
I love this! It’s so affirming. Thank you!
I think this very well may be the most amazing FIT article I have ever ready. I get nauseated looking at all the B/A pictures on facebook about the fitness queens who have starved themselves into bikini competitions only to have months on end of binging and crazy diets and have health issues to follow. I still struggle with what is the right thing to do. But I know after having had my adrenals shut down, having hypothyroidism, years of amenorrhea, And digestive issue to ensue, that THAT way of living is no longer an option.
And by the way, you are so right about the sex part. When your hormones drop due to low body fat…you are never going to enjoy sex all that much. You need bodyfat to product estrogen which will enhance your sex life.
And when the famine comes….guess who’s going to stick around longer.
Thanks for the AMAZING and REAL blog!!!
You look way hotter now IMO kiddo. Great post.
I gave up on the notion of ‘weight’ several years ago. I have very dense bones, a wide hip structure, and lots of muscle mass. Even looking in the similar body form you have at your muscle+some fat photos, I am 165-170 as well.
The amount of eye-pops I began to notice, once I stopped worrying about it (I’d also a few years prior, cut out soda, fast food, and began walking to work), was amazing; my favourite response I’d heard from my bluntly honest friend in response to the photo I’d shared of my trapezius region (upper back and shoulder blade muscles), “is it even legal to have dimples there!?”
I appreciate your thoughts and agree that the LOSE ALL THE WEIGHT/FAT motto is just harmful. I have to say I’m a bit confused though, because to me you look very skinny in all the pictures you posted. You don’t look overweight in the slightest, even by stupid model-type standards today. At any rate, props and keep it up! '?
Amber’s not “overweight” for sure. To be termed such is to subject your individualistic body, genetics, lifestyle, and metabolism to be put into a pre-conceived box of ideals that some random person thought up. Whoever determined BMI and set weight points? It’s absurd. Good post.
I love this! My goal is fat loss, yes, but mostly just to be healthy. I’m now back at pre-baby (twins) weight and feel pretty good even though I’m still fluffier that I’d like to be, my big goal is toning up my legs and getting a round, lifted booty. I’m still trying to figure out what to do/how much to do to make that happen.
All other lower body exercises are in case you get sick of the basics or want to supplement the basics. These’ll build you some nice legs/ass. Go heavy or go home! '?
Thank you. I needed some perspective.
I have read this about 4 times now. It’s so eye opening to me, and I can’t get enough, I want it ingrained in my brain. Thank you.
The disconnect other people have between “I want to be healthy” and “I want to gain weight” is something that has baffled me for about a decade.
To explain: For the first 18 years of my life, I lived in a house to which I was severely allergic. Allergy medication didn’t even stop the symptoms, just lessened them. I had a number of lung problems related to this issue; including asthma, and as such I wasn’t really a “fit” person.
BUT: I weighed 110 pounds, so no one thought it was a problem for me. To me, this was awful, I ate like a teenage boy about to hit a growth spurt, but I was still 5’1 and 110 pounds.
My friends and I would be doing a fitness segment in 4H and we’d all do measurements and set goals. Everyone else wanted to lose weight (even when they looked perfectly healthy), I wanted to gain 20 pounds.
So, high school ended and I moved into a place that wasn’t saturated in allergens. I put on 15 pounds that year alone. It was wonderful. I wasn’t starving all the time, I felt more energetic. Over the next 5 years, I grew into my (rather square and muscular) frame and finally settled around 140. To me, this is my ideal weight (and my target to get back to after baby #2 is done.) All the BMI charts will say I’m overweight, but to me, it’s healthy.
The charts are an average and do not consider muscle mass, build type or healthy fat percentage. Sometimes, to be healthy, it’s necessary to live in the “Overweight” area.
My daughter saw me looking at your 12% body fat photo from across the room. She said, “Does she have cancer?” That about sums up your post I’d say.
Thanks for sharing your journey and perspective.
What a wonderful inspiration you are!Im at my heaviest ever!And trying to win this fight is so much work in progress,they say give it time but those negative tapes that tell you “Just accept it your getting older now” or your genetically destined…But you really offer s lot of positive hope!!!Great job!!!Thanks for sharing your journey '?
That’s probably because of her short hair. She looks good in both of the photos.
Hold in people….. Isn’t the whole point *not* what you/I/go Kaleo LOOKS LIKE but how she feels about herself and how healthy and strong she is''
Thanks so much for sharing such a vulnerable experience! I love how you pointed out that fat loss isn’t as great as we used to believe. We need enough fat to survive. I used to have anorexia and bulimia and was super caught up in being afraid of any kind of fat. I agree that weight is just a number– as a society we are too concerned with a certain image and not on how healthy we are-mind, body and spirit.
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Thanks for this Amber! I am still recovering from trying to be smaller (and stress) and it looks like I will be on bio-identical progesterone for another 6 months to get out of this mess. Gaining about 20 pounds has been a blessing because at this point I just want to feel good and hopefully have a baby again in the future. I have also really had to focus on who I am outside of my weight/looks. I probably will lose a little fluff around my midsection when my hormones are balanced but I have realized at 33 that trying to get smaller is not worth the cost. If this weight has to stay on for me to be truly healthy then it will. I have a life to live and eating enough is really awesome.
Thank you so much for this! I needed to hear it!! I am recovering from a restrictive eating disorder and it is hard to keep pushing forward and remember that the number on the scale is not the end all be all! I need to really pay attention to how I feel and what my body is doing more than those numbers that the scale spits out!
I think this post is very insightful (and so are many of the comments). It brings to mind something I learned in the recovery world i.e; the same activity can at one time support recovery and at another enable addiction. We all have our cravings and addictions and need to be mindful of our choices in a very dynamic way!
This is awesome! Thank you so much for your work to shift the focus from weight and fat to health.
I have been a fine “weight” for years, but I was not healthy. I was fatigued all the time. I’ve been to many nutritionists over the years, initially to deal with an eating disorder, and later to ferret out my food sensitivities. My husband and I were talking about my weight the other day – I’m the lowest weight I’ve been in 15 years (I’m 44, 5’8 and 138 pounds). He said I look good. I said I just can’t focus on how I look – I want energy. I need to build muscle (I get BIA testing through my doctor, and my fat is high – 24% or so, and my muscle is low). I said the number on the scale is not my guide, either. I want to be strong, have good hormone balance, and while the fat is high, it’s not the fat of appearance I’m concerned about – it’s the fat of toxicity (around my organs) and my body’s tearing down muscle that need to change. I could build muscle, have a higher number on the scale, and I would be super pleased by that. At my age, I want to LAST. I want to be able to participate in sports with my son, have energy to live the life I want to live. The number on the scale is so deceptive, and I just can’t go there anymore for my sense of being “okay.” And anyone in the fitness industry knows that muscle weighs more than fat: one can be exceptionally fit and still be “overweight” by the BMI chart. The BMI is a very crude measurement of health and ought to be treated as such.
I just wanted to say I’m really glad you wrote this… and in my opinion, in that 12% body fat picture, you look like a compulsive overexerciser (and possible restrictor). As someone with an eating disorder, I have met and known well someone with restrictive EDNOS who was a compulsive exerciser, and she looked like you do in that picture: Plenty of muscle, very little body fat, and a tired, pale face. I can SEE the starved look on your face. I’m really glad you realized that this was bad for your health, and gained back the weight you did. You are STILL completely and utterly trim in the new photos, but you actually look healthy. Much better at the new weight than the old, imho.
Adrenal fatigue is a term applied to a collection of nonspecific symptoms, such as body aches, fatigue, nervousness, sleep disturbances and digestive problems. The term often shows up in popular health books and on alternative medicine websites, but it isn’t an accepted medical diagnosis.
Caloric restriction may have its evolutionary roots as a survival mechanism, allowing species to survive on scraps when food is scarce in order to continue to reproduce. But that restriction only has lasting positive effects if the overall diet is a balanced one, which may not always be the case in conditions of famine. (That also explains why anorexia is so unhealthy: people who starve themselves become malnourished). It's possible the strategy developed as a way to protect species from consuming toxic plants or foods, when it wasn't always obvious which sources were verboten…..^
Go and visit our very own online site as well
Amber- I have just stumbled upon your blog today. I would really like to commend you on your approach to being healthy and not focusing on weight and fat loss. Growing up I was always active and even into my 20’s. I joined the military right out of high school (back then they focused on weight rather than fitness ability) and should have known where my self esteem was headed from the very beginning. I was 5’9″ and weighed 162 lbs and they told me I was overweight. While I was always an active person I never “worked out” until I joined the military. By the time I was out of boot camp I weighed a whopping 145lbs(I was 18…and wore a size 0…ick!) Fast forward to 21, I weighed in at 195lbs and wore a size 10(I wasn’t working out as much as I should, maybe 2-3 times a week, and was partying probably like a normal 21 year old, and was about 2 years into a serious relationship…lol…comfort weight…yay…) and was put on a program for my weight, I HAD to lose 3lbs a month until I was under my “Goal Wieght” or able to pass a tape BMI calculation. I started working out 6 days a week twice a day and only consumed about 1200…I lost a whopping 15lbs and was never able to lose any more. I then started doing REALLY unhealthy things to lose those 3lbs(water pills, sauna for hours, laxitives….etc etc) BTW…i feel it should be noted that at 5’9″ and 180 lbs i was in a size 7. (how is this FAT'?) Subsuquently…I was kicked out of the military and went into a deep depression and gained over the course of 2 years 100lbs. I have started working out and eating healthy so many times and just get frustrated with seeing no results and basically put myself right back to that 22 year old depressed mess. Recently, I started working out and eating helthy with NO GOALS other than to change my lifestyle and become healthier and it has CHANGED MY LIFE!!! I just really appreciate people who BLAST the BMI/weight charts because CLEARLY they are RIDICULOUS!!!
” . . . 2200-2400 calories a day, which most people would consider not only adequate but probably quite indulgent. ”
Yes, well, most people seem to think that the standard 2000 calorie reference diet of nutritional information tables is what you are SUPPOSED to eat, rather than being the semi-arbitrarily chosen figure that makes the math easy when adjusting for ACTUAL, individual needs that it is.
See “serving size,” rinse and repeat.
Most people will also, when seeing a word they don’t know on the Internet, spend a few minutes posting a query as to its meaning on a web forum, wait hours to days for an answer, spend several more minutes posting how annoyed they are that no one has answered them yet, and then several more minutes posting an angry diatribe when the answer they finally get seems to be from someone a bit annoyed by the whole affair and thus didn’t answer nicely enough.
Rather than, ya know, spending 20 seconds using the Internet to look it up.
So I really wouldn’t pay much attention to most people.
Thank you for this. I appreciate having access to healthy, considered views about our relationship to our bodies, so you taking the time to clearly describe your experience is invaluable.
GAH. I want to delete my above comment. I’m getting HUGE amounts of weight loss spam to my inbox now because I stupidly entered my website on here. Any idea how?
Yeah, a lot of spam has been getting through akismet lately, I have my webmaster working on it. Thanks for letting me know!
Can YOU delete my comments? I’m getting at least 5-10 spammy weight loss emails a day…I’d be eternally grateful. And stuff. ::gives you shameless puppy dog eyes::
No problem. '?
And my books aren’t available in printed form yet, and the only one that discusses food and eating is taking up space. Sorry for not actually answering your original question sooner!
Another great post. You tell it like it is:) Thank you for being so open and honest!
Love it! Thanks for sharing! You look great “overweight”! How tall are you?
“I can't tell you which body you should like better, but I CAN tell you which one eats ice cream, kills workouts and has more sex. The overweight one.”
Yeah!! Best sentence I’ve read in weeks. Glad I happened upon this. Way to kick ass – I’ll start sending women specifically to this blog post.
Thank you so much for this post! My body type is very similar to yours, as is my experience. I’m a 5’10’, 30 yr old female. I weigh 167lbs. Last year I was 146 lbs, 14.1% body fat. I’ve been amenorrheic since I was 18 and abused diet pills throughout the years. If I gain weight, my thought is I’m a failure. I’m gaining weight now and trying to not fret. I know ultimately it is for the best. Thank you again for your honest words. They really touched home with me.
This is such a great article. Twice when I have been 5-10 kilos from my goal weight (to be classed as normal on the BMI scale) I failed to get to that weight. This caused me an awful lot of angst '. and weight gain. The last time round my dietician told me to stop doing the exercise that I loved and to go back to moderate walking only. When I also complained that I was hungry and lacking energy on the 1200 calorie diet that I’d been on for over a year she said to have an extra apple but to make it a small one. Can you believe it? In the process of downsizing my body weight again but no longer have what are unreasonable targets for me or listening to dieticians with outdated ideas.
My husband and I were just discussing how BMI can be very skewed after he found out at his wellness doctor visit that he is on the high side of “healthy” weight. As a kinesiology major in college I was always told never to trust BMI. He is also naturally muscular and has a long torso and shorter legs, so it makes sense!
Thank you for this post. I recently jumped OFF the diet wagon. I have been a healthy weight my entire life, but continued to lose and gain the same 15 lbs over and over again. I never needed to lose the weight, and the low end of my weight was unsustainable. I don’t need to lose the weight, I just need to give myself more compassion. And I’m working on that. Keep up the great work!
man! I need your help! lol
For a female, being overweight is just as disgusting as being muscly.
Meh. Either is better than being an insecure asshole.
Haha! Fit is the new thin. Some of us fit guys love ladies with muscles. Let the haters hate… more for me '?
This was a great read BTW. Thanks for that
dude. it is people like you with comments like this that give women a complex.
Pretty sure all trolls are over-opinionated like this. Amber’s reply was perfect– I laughed out loud, a rarity these days
Thank you for your humble and honest blog post. I appreciate the time you have taken to share this with us. I dont usually read too many blogs but stumbled upon this one and am glad i read it.
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This was fantasticly amazing! in fact, my old nutritionist recommended i read this. i feel like…like my whole life i’ve been lied to! haha. i am sure i’ve been told all this in different ways by fitness instructors and nutritionist…but the way you worded it on such a bluntly honest level…i really understood it!!! This year alone, i intentionally gained 22 pounds…I was underweight due to an eating disorder…but was slapped in the face with a new approach to life…wanting to live it! I love food. I dont want to punish myself from food! However, I am now at a healthy weight. My BMI is 22.1 now. I am fine with it. I am healthy. There are my days (as a normal woman) when i freak out about my thighs and such…but now, Ive reached a point where my appetite is COMPLETELY gone! it freaks out people closest to me becuase they think i am going back to my eating disorder, but I AM NOT!! i literally CAN NOT get myself to eat! i try! i make food, and then it just sits there…food smells and sounds so revolting when im not hungry! so it is very hard to force myself to eat! and now i know im waaaaaay under my calories…sometimes getting in anywhere from 200-500 if im lucky. (Not every day is this way, but 4 out five days are.) I thought, maybe its the protein shakes i make for breakfast, so i stopped making those (Which would be the only thing i would eat all day)…but it proved not to be that! I am at a loss. I keep trying to figure out what could be wrong. I feel completely fine! good energy, not sick…i get headaches, but thats about all. i just dont know!