Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: How Weight Clings To (And Falls Off) The Body

Q&A Wednesday: How Weight Clings To (And Falls Off) The Body

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Q: Some folks said they lost 100lbs and people thought they’d only lost like 20-30. Did you have similar experiences?

Q: How has your height had an impact in your journey? I started my journey about 2 years ago at 372 lbs. I’m 6’3 and now, 245. Doctors have told me that a healthy weight and overall goal for me should be 150-185lbs. I’ve had my body fat tested through hydrostatic testing and of that 245lbs, 170 of it is pure muscle. It’s really confusing to formulate an “end” goal with all of this information. The one thing I know is that at the end of this, I just want to be fit and healthy and the weight itself doesn’t matter so much.

A: I think both of these questions are related because they refer to how weight lays on (and falls off) the body.

To put things bluntly, the larger you are… the harder it will be for you to see weight fall off the body. People who have hundreds of pounds to lose can easily lose 30lbs and not see it at all. Conversely, they can also gain 20lbs and not notice it all – though they might feel it mildly – because there’s already so much weight being managed by the body, you don’t notice it.

When it comes to people who are overweight by 100 or more pounds, I feel like there’s a point where you stop looking at yourself and judging your appearance in regards to your weight. At least, I did. I’d become used to not looking at myself and judging my body regarding my weight – which might’ve been good for my self-esteem, but obviously wasn’t beneficial in regards to my weight management and preventing myself from gaining even more – so I’d lost a good 80lbs before I’d noticed any change, and that was only because I decided to hold on to my progress dress. In my mind, I was simply fat, and any time I’d look in the mirror to assess myself, all I’d see was fat… so there was no reason to bother assessing myself, anymore. While some people may want to call that some reverse form of body dysmorphia, I simply accept that it was my own subconscious trying to protect myself from the disappointment of acknowleding what I couldn’t control at that time.

That being said, each body carries weight differently. A woman could be 300lbs and carry the bulk of her fat in her tummy, her thighs, her hips, none of those or all of those. Because everyone tends to carry all of their weight in a specific spot, it can be hard to see the minor victories. (Keep in mind, this is why I talk about simply putting your faith in the fact that you’re doing the right thing, regardless of whether or not you see success anywhere.) And at the same time, the smaller you become, the easier it is for you to notice a pound or two coming or going. I can look in the mirror, now, and know when my cycle is approaching. Why? Because I gain, what looks like, about six pounds. Joyful, joyful.

This brings me to the second question. I’m six feet tall. 160lbs on me looks far different than 160lbs on a 5’0″ person. Naomi Campbell, pictured above, at 5’11” and 123lbs will look mad different from the 4’11” woman who weighs 123lbs. Furthermore, a 170lb 5’5″ woman with 18% body fat looks VERY different from a 170lb 5’5″ woman with 28% body fat. It just… there’s no comparison. One’s built like a figure competitor, the other… isn’t.

Bodies carry numbers differently, and the more numbers you include in your assumptions, the wider the variation. Height, weight, body fat percentage, hip-to-waist ratio, bust measurement, ring size, neck measurement, calf measurement, how many Heartbeats there were at the end of the movie… all these numbers will make a difference. That’s also why the “healthy weight range” is relative to your height. What’s “healthy” for me at six feet tall is different from what’s healthy from someone at 5’8, and that’s different from what’s “healthy” at 5’2″. (As a side note, this is why I’m always amazed by people who make statements like “I won’t date someone who weighs more than 150,” because if a woman weighs 150 and is 5’2″, she’s not going to look the way they’re probably envisioning… thereby showing me how foolish, unknowledgeable and, probably, unfit they are.)

This is why I simply say that the numbers don’t matter… especially if, after you’ve got all the numbers you want, you still don’t look the way you’d like to look. That’s the real kicker. A number won’t guarantee that you’ll look the way you want, because the numbers don’t define the look, especially if you’re only going by weight – which can include everything from how much water you’re retaining to the stuff you haven’t pooped out, yet – and height.

I know that our society clings to the numbers because, when we speak of weight management, we report pounds lost… but I do believe it’s okay to pull ourselves back from that, now. I mean, sure, keep tabs on it but know that, because those numbers don’t give us anything, there are far more valuable markers of progress to keep an eye on… if you must keep an eye on something. After all, we’re supposed to be putting our faith in fitness, right?

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Larenee July 13, 2011 - 2:27 PM

How many Heartbeats – LOL 🙂

Savannah July 13, 2011 - 5:35 PM

Great post Erika. When I was younger (early teens) I weighed 130 at about 5’0. People never believed me when I told them because of how it was distributed on my body. When I am in great shape, I have an hourglass figure. When in ok shape (like now) the weight gain in my midsection is the most noticeable to me (and others?).

Right now I am 184 and 5’2. I don’t look obese, just chunky. When I’m at my ideal weight (145-155) I don’t look thin, just fit. Even though it can be hard, we have to learn to let go of the numbers and go with what we see in the mirror or how our clothes fit.

Jean July 13, 2011 - 9:08 PM

I could have posted this.

Vee February 29, 2012 - 8:59 PM

I agree I am 5’0 and I weigh 150-151 pounds and people think I am smaller than that. My goal weight is 125-130:-)

Dominique July 4, 2012 - 10:13 AM

I’m 5’1″ and 181 (down from 192 which was my largest ever). Even at that size, I just looked like I was carrying extra weight. I’ve never been huge but I can see the fat more than others. I’ve lost 11 pounds and it’s already a big difference. I hold weight on my thighs and butt and stomach the most. Fortunately, my obliques always shrink first so I hold my “small” hourglass shape (I have small breasts lol). Unfortunately, my abs always took longer. But since I “suck it in” most of them time, people are usually shocked by my weight.

At my smallest, I was 144 and I still had a belly that I kept sucked in. It definitely comes off differently for everyone.

DJ July 4, 2012 - 11:11 AM

It is funny how people of similar height and weight can look so different. I am 5’1″ and 155lbs. with 26 inch thighs and I appear to be far beyond chunky

Dominique July 4, 2012 - 8:25 PM

I carry most of my weight in my butt and thighs and then my stomach. And THEN everywhere else. I hold my stomach in a lot. I also wear a lot of clothing and accessories that highlight my shape and hide my fat. My thighs are also 26″ 🙂

Danielle July 13, 2011 - 6:11 PM

Thank you for this! Another thing that really grinds my gears is people saying YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY wear a 4/12/18! Every body is different, and a size 14 on me at 5’5″ will look different than a size 10 on someone 4’11”. They may look “bigger” than me overall, but they wear a smaller size.

LaToya July 13, 2011 - 9:02 PM

This is so right on time for me. I’m 5’10 with approximately 130 pounds to lose (maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less – we’ll see as I approach what I think looks ok). I’ve lost 40 pounds in the last 2 1/2 months but it looks like barely nothing (It MAYBE looks like 10 pounds) and belies my hard work and all of the life changes I have made. It’s VERY frustrating. I’m 5’10 and my whole life I’ve been told I “carry my weight well”. I believed that mess and ballooned to just under 300 pounds. I don’t even like to tell people how much weight I’ve lost when they ask anymore, because when I say 40 they look at me like I’m lying. SMH. I do notice a difference in my clothing, but again not much. However, I say all this to say I’ve come to accept that it will take ME a bit longer than others to start showing the rewards of my efforts, and really its not even about a certain number for me anymore (Ok, at least on most days, lol). There is no way I’m going back to how I was before, so I just Keep on Truckin!! LoL

Lorsa July 20, 2011 - 11:48 AM

Yes I have gotten to 210lbs at 5’11 and people say oh you are not big. Well maybe not to some but I feel it. I gained the initial weight with my 1st pregnancy. I don’t wish to be in 155 as in high school but would like to drop at least 30-40 lbs and get in a healthy range. We have to keep moving and try on clothes the scale is not my friend as I build muscle mass and then lose the fat.

Stefanie March 20, 2013 - 8:35 PM

“my whole life I’ve been told I “carry my weight well”. I believed that mess and ballooned to just under 300 pounds. I don’t even like to tell people how much weight I’ve lost when they ask anymore, because when I say 40 they look at me like I’m lying.”

Excerpted from Q&A Wednesday: How Weight Clings To (And Falls Off) The Body | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

Another thought I can relate too! I was at 238 and on a 5’3″ frame. And I had curve (natural shape), so I thought I was cute even at my heaviest, until I took the pics. And when I told this one lady how much I lost, she said ‘humph, well you look good today,” as if the other days I just looked the same, I don’t know; but when people say I’ve lost weight, I just say ‘yep, I’m working on it.”

JoAnna July 13, 2011 - 10:26 PM

I’ve avoided taking pictures since I started regularly exercising and watching my numbers: cholesterol, triglycerides, weight, A1c, and waist/arm/thigh measurements. Well it was 6 months last week and my doc and I went over the numbers. I was worried ’cause I was having major hay fever symptoms and couldn’t do hardly anything without sneezing, itching, gasping for breath thru clogged nostrils for over a week. In 6 months I lost a total of 11lbs. That’s it.

Then my doc took my measurements and told me I lost 3 inches off my waist, and 2 inches off both my arms and thighs. My A1c lowered .8 pts, and if if goes down another .7pts and stays there, I could take metformin only if my blood sugar spikes. My cholesterol is a total of 132 (down 11pts), Triglycerides: 56 (down 17pts!!! And to think I was worried about eggs and real butter!), LDL: 82 pts (down 9 pts). He told me to raise my HDL from a current 39 to 45 min by continuing the exercise, adding daily wine, and 2grams of omega 3s (fish oils). My heart is strong and all my arteries and veins are clear. I was in shock! If Iwasn’t still 140lbs overweight (85lbs down so far), I’d be in perfect health! He reminded me that the numbers don’t lie. I am MUCH fitter than I was 6 months ago, and a lot healthier than I was a year ago.

When I first started this exercise program, I couldn’t do 30secs on the treadmill at 1.0mph for a doctor supervised stress test. Now, 30mins (with headphones, of course) and 2.0 incline and 2.2mph after a 15mins of light cardio, and 10 mins on the elliptical. I still don’t see the slimmer “JoAnna” in the mirroir, but I do notice a firmer one. Still dealing with my belly that rolls over in bed 2secs before I do, but there’s less of it.

When people ask me how much weight I’ve lost, I tell them that I’m on my way to get off meds in a few years. The numbers are just facts of my current status, and an indicator of how far I’ve come.

Dawn July 11, 2012 - 9:04 PM

YES! Way to go. You have such an awesome attitude. Thank you for sharing your story.

Janine January 9, 2013 - 10:19 AM

Good attitude- enjoy the daily wine 😉

jas July 13, 2011 - 10:42 PM

The best advice that i received when starting my weightloss journey was to ignore the scale, just watch what you eat and train hard. I remember not losing one pound from november to febuary but went from a size 18 to 14. I was frustrated that the scale didn’t move but learned a great deal as to how my body works.
I no longer search for the ideal weight for my 5’8 frame but for ultimate health and strength.

Shante July 14, 2011 - 3:37 PM

IMO the only numbers that matter are your waist size and your fat percentage. I think those are better indicators for telling you your health than the number on the scale. This is a good post.

Melinda July 15, 2011 - 10:44 PM

I think the dangerous thing when it comes to comparing bodies is the fact that many women are judging themselves either against photo shopped images of celebrity bodies or overweight bodies of people they know. Both ends can be unhealthy! We need to stop telling ourselves that because our family members are “thick” it’s ok for us to be thick. And we need to stop listening to men tell us to stay big and juicy if it is jeopardizing our health. By the same token, we must realize that pretty much all thighs on all magazines have been airbrushed to be impossibly perfect.

I think that body fat is one of the biggest indicators of a person’s health/fitness. A woman with body fat percentage at 30 or 35 or 40% is at increasingly higher risk for obesity related diseases than a woman under 25 or 20 or 15%. Just look down at your belly and thighs. Grab the fat on your back. You probably can tell without anybody telling you if you have too much fat on your body.

We all have the gift of intuitive body knowledge. We can eat, move, breathe, and act according to that intuitive knowledge and it will probably go a long way towards helping us achieve true health from the inside out…not just a body that we can dress pretty to please our eyes and the eyes of other people.


Felicia July 20, 2011 - 12:13 PM

Oh, thanks so much for this post! I was so discouraged this morning after dismounting my scale that read exactly what it did a month ago! I’ve cut out bread, sugar, and taken up Zumba and water aerobics. I will go by how my clothes feel, and give the scale a new home…in my attic, for now!

stephanie July 20, 2011 - 7:00 PM

Duck , Eddie and Choir Boy. I love that movie!

stephanie July 20, 2011 - 7:25 PM

3 Heartbeats left at the end of the movie. 😉

Nia July 4, 2012 - 10:50 AM

Yes, thank you for this article! I’m glad to know that the measurement of weight loss success is not just about pounds. I’m 5’7, and carry the bulk of my weight in my stomach and thighs, and up until recently (mid of 2011) I had been considered “thin”. And now, I am struggling to figure out how to attack this dramatic weight gain! I have started exercising, but haven’t really noticed any “physical” effects. Needless to say, its been confusing (and a little depressing)! But, I am hopeful! Though I have not lost too much in the way of pounds, I have lost some inches on my trouble zones. So, this article gives me hope, and also helps to point out the true measurements that matter. Yay!

penny August 17, 2011 - 10:30 AM

Shout out to the tall girls. LOL, I’m over 6 ft and I carry a lot of weight on my body. I have a good 50lbs o lose and people are always shock when I tell them that. AT the same time I can lose 10lbs and I am all rejoicing but it is not noticeable at all. So I just try to go by how I feel and how my clothes fit. Oh yeah, I look at the scale also.

Johnitta August 17, 2011 - 10:32 AM

Great post! I struggle with the numbers game, and just the thought of numbers can ruin my day…. and sometimes I even gain weight! Thank you for reaffirming something that I already knew…. I can’t compare MY body/weight with the next person’s body/weight!

Getting it right August 17, 2011 - 12:11 PM

Love it! For as long as I can remember I’ve also counted on the scale to tell me how good my progress is going; and if it didn’t line up the way I thought it should- all hell would break out and I would freaking flip out and go back to eating anything and not working out and gain the little I lost plus more, putting me back where I started. Then to later find out, it was water weight or I was bloated from the start of my cycle. Funny how I just realize that I don’t need to scale to comfrim my progress. I am focusing on fitness and making it my goal to workout at least once a day and learning to eat clean. I’m loving it and it frees me from being mean to myself if the scale looks funny. I am breaking away from the weekly hell of getting on the scale.

Hazelphine March 21, 2012 - 10:39 AM

I like this post, because when i started the so called Weight Watchers after Jennifer Hudson’s weight loss the scale just wasn’t moving and i was doing everything i was supposed to do, and to no avail i didn’t notice any changes because of that. Now i join a weight loss center, and i already notice a difference. I am 5’8″ tall ,and i have to lose at least 50 pounds and everybody keep telling me it looks good on me. I know i have to lose the extra weight i notice that my blood pressure increase with the weight and my right knee is starting to bother me, so no sir it’s got to go. I am a hour glass with 43″ DD’s and a 33″ waist, 46″ hips, and ppl tells me i do not need to lose weight, but my health tells me i do. Erica i too was doing Zumba and my Total Gym and nothing. Thank you Erica for the great post.

Crystal March 21, 2012 - 8:46 PM

This was perfect timing for me today. I don’t know how much I weigh right now because I promised myself to not pay attention to the numbers for at least a month. I am just getting my exercise in and watching my food. Last I checked I was 168 and not looking like I wanted to look when I got to this weight. That put me @ 82lbs lost and with about 18 left until my goal weight there is still waaayy more “goo” than I am happy with. After reading this I am ditching a goal weight for a goal look. I know the body I want so that is what I will fight for.

Jessica July 4, 2012 - 10:13 AM

I just had this conversation with a friend who asked me if I had a specific goal. I told her my goal was to feel better, look better in my clothes, and just keep moving. I don’t want to focus on numbers right now. I am keeping up with pounds lost but not focusing on the number.

Lynn July 11, 2012 - 9:11 AM

I am 5’10” and I have lost 50 lbs twice in my life – getting down to 166 which is in my healthy weight range, but I looked a lot thinner than that number. I was actually to thin looking in my opinion. I look at models who are my height and above and are 120lbs and I cant imagine, because you could see my ribs at almost 50lbs more than that. It’s so much more than the number.

This time around, I am lifting weights nad monitoring my energy. There is more to getting fit than just losing weight.

Sheryl Hampton July 11, 2012 - 12:03 PM

I enjoyed reading your post!! I started this life change 11 months ago!! For me the first three months was the hardest!! Getting up making that commitment to work out 7 days a week 2 times a day at 5am every morning!! And I didn’t see change!! But I began to feel better… by the 5 th month I saw change in ..my clothing!! The scale scale seem to stay …stuck in the same area!! Now 11months later I am 6 dress sizes smaller!! This is a life change that I have made it to be forever!!

Yolanda July 11, 2012 - 12:16 PM

Thank you for this article. I so needed this today. It has encouraged me to Continue my work at my weight loss. I knew this, but it wad truly a good reminder. Thanks again!

Kaija August 14, 2012 - 9:17 AM

Amen! Bodies, like most biological traits vary so darn much that generalizations are generally untrue. Height, frame size, body composition, etc. all make a huge difference from person to person. I weigh more now than I did in high school/university BUT I am smaller in size now due to exercise, fitness, and gaining muscle/losing fat…which is why you can’t trust the scale. Using the fit of your clothing to gauge what is happening to your body is a much better yardstick.

And the “any woman who is above X lbs. is too big” is just plain silly. Most people, women and men, have no idea what normal people weigh, especially what normal women weigh, because all we hear is the weights of actresses, models, athletes, etc. and who knows if they are even reporting accurately? Self-reported “data” is suspect…people fudge. Also, weight does not scale linearly with height, which is what most people tend to assume. People are 3-dimensional and are not pieces of string. A piece of string that is twice as long may weigh twice as much…not so for bodies. Volume is a 3-D quantity, so the volume/weight of your body will scale exponentially with changes in height.

Ericka March 20, 2013 - 10:30 AM

I needed this post this morning…

Stefanie March 20, 2013 - 8:25 PM

“A number won’t guarantee that you’ll look the way you want, because the numbers don’t define the look”

Excerpted from Q&A Wednesday: How Weight Clings To (And Falls Off) The Body | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

This is SO true. For years, as I dreamed of being the ideal size for me, I told myself I would cry and have a party when the scale reached 199 pounds (I had been over 200 pounds for over 15 years). So, when the scale got there (more like 195-197 now), I was happy but not emotional as I expected. Why? Because the way I looked at 195-197, to me, was the same way I looked at 207 or even 213. My starting weight was 238, and I have lost most of the fat from that point to now in my back, bust and sides. But the abdomen, the area that carries the most unwanted fat, I don’t see much change, at all. There is change, but it’s tough to decipher. Like you, I have to put on the dress that didn’t fit AT ALL at 238 and now fits ‘just right’ now or the pants that wouldnt even come past my thighs at 238 but are now loose in some places to see that the weight loss is real (oh, and the fact that my bra size went from 40 to 36..NICE!). And yes, it does help that people are really noticing. Some people are a scale hog, I’m a mirror hog. I thought maybe I have some body dysmorphia too; but seeing my belly not budge as fast I as I want it too just lets me know that I need to up my efforts, and I am content with that….SO glad you created this post.

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