It creeps up on you.... or does it?

Q: Can you feel yourself losing weight the same as gaining it? I’ve only ever gained, and it always feels proportional. To better explain: I know I take up space, like mass, but I can’t feel the weight diff between now and say, freshman year.

I refer to this as “the creeper effect.” I’ll just say this in advance: I’ve dealt with it and while weight loss makes it different, I don’t believe it ever goes away.

Honestly, I think we all go through it, but there’s a big difference between “just noticing” 5lbs and “just noticing” 50lbs.

Like, for example – I don’t remember ever noticing that I’d gained weight. I do remember being in college, having a favorite pair of jeans (you know what I mean by “favorite pair of jeans”), going to put them on and realizing that they didn’t fit anymore, quietly shelving them in the back of the closet, and quickly grabbing something else to wear. I also think that was the day I started wearing elastic pants, because the jeans were a number size… and it might’ve been subconsciously too much for me to bear to have a numbered representation of the weight I’d gained.

I also recall trying on a pair of jeans – a year or so after the jean incident above – that were the same size of my favorite jeans… and those jeans laughed at me. I mean, they laughed at me. Those jeans said “Girl, if you don’t stop playing in this store and put me back on the shelf…” and that’s exactly what I did – I put them back on the shelf and went on my merry way, looking for elastic-y pants again. I remember people in college commenting on how “dressy” I was because I never wore jeans. Naw, I “stopped wearing jeans” because I couldn’t fit ’em like that. In 2008, I eventually found a cheap little out-of-the-way store that sold plus-sized jeans, and held onto a few pair. They were certainly not the same size as my other jeans, but I was so happy that I could wear jeans again that the size difference didn’t even register to me.

I think that at a certain point in weight gain, it gets harder to notice the occasional pound addition. I don’t know if that’s a subconscious means of protecting ourselves from the pain of still gaining yet not knowing why (and that pain, ironically, triggers a bout of emotional eating coupled with a pledge of “Tomorrow, I’m going on a diet!”), or if its the result of being taught to ignore focusing on our bodies (in the hopes that no one else would focus on our bodies), or if it is just a lifelong consequence of habitually putting everything above and before ourselves. Hell, it could be all three. All I know is that after I had my daughter, I really wasn’t paying any attention to myself… and I’m the most important person in her world.

In losing weight, it’s kind of funny. At first, I’d lose 20lbs and not notice a thing. That’s why I started clinging to my progress dress – it was allowing me to see what I obviously couldn’t see. I could track the weight without the worry. I also could look at my figure without criticizing my body (ohh, the cellulite… ohhh, the skin… if I knew then the skin issues I’d have to wait out, I might’ve given up. Just sayin’.) and just appreciate what my progress meant for my new wardrobe.

I won’t even lie – in the beginning, I could lose 30lbs and not notice a single difference. Once I started eating like I had some sense and the weight started flying off (and I’d know it was flying off because of the scale), I still could not see it. I could feel it because my mobility and my lung capacity improved, but see it as far as “taking up space?” That wasn’t happening.

There’s also the fact that even when I was a size 26, I truly believed I looked like a size 14. And I don’t mean “I thought I was sexy like a 14” – I mean, I thought I “took up the same space” as a size 14. It was confusing for a long time.

This is why the tape measure helps. It helps us identify the space that we do use, as well as identify when we begin to take up less space. I can keep track of the things I cannot always see with a standard form of measurement.

I think its normal for a woman who looks at herself to say “Oh, I feel lighter/heavier today.” I think what’s strange is beating yourself up for it. If you’re stepping up on a scale and saying “I think I feel lighter this week,” that’s one thing. But to base satisfaction or sorrow on whether or not your body has changed every single day, and your career isn’t based on that? That’s questionable.

Now, I can look at myself and tell if I’m heavier. Some people don’t want that ability, but I like the accountability it affords me. To me, if I weren’t able to tell when my body changed, it’d feel like “If I don’t know about it, I don’t have to do anything about it.” Weight changes are included in that. I feel like without that body awareness, I’d slide right back up into those size 28s. I’d just put my numbered jeans away, trade them for elastics and continue to ignore whatever problem I was dealing with instead of addressing it head on. Because, y’know, that’s the easier method… and we all like easy. Even me.

Having said all that, I do think we all notice weight fluctuation… but its a matter of whether or not we pay attention to them (or have a history of ignoring them), or turn them into something to obsess over that really matters. Like I’ve said before, having the information is great… but its whether or not you act on it (and how) that makes the difference. Hope that helps!