Thursday, April 30, 2009

And Right Back Down to the Bottom of the Mountain

I have an amazing ability to gain and lose weight. The same 20 (give or take) pounds, year after year after year after year, for, oh, 25 years now. But this is the amazing part: I can do either in the span of usually about two months. Don’t believe me? My brother just lost 31 pounds in two weeks. TWO weeks. It is a family curse and blessing. It is obviously in my genes.

But first, my brother’s story: He is six feet tall and weighs in the 220s, which is on the higher end of the scale for him. He doesn’t look extra-large, really, because he, like most men, carries his weight very well, which is so not fair. His office did a Biggest Loser Challenge (is this all the rage in corporate America? Group weight-loss programs?) and he signed up. It was eight weeks long. For the first six weeks, he continued to eat double cheeseburgers and whatever else struck his fancy, which I guess means huge portions of whatever he wants. Week after week of weigh-ins revealed no weight loss, and his co-workers, who were all slowly and steadily going down on the scale, good-naturedly teased his lack of progress. Then my brother decided to be mindful of what is was eating for the last two weeks. Week one, he lost 11 pounds. Week two, he lost 18. He lost the Challenge (and the $700 pot) by a half pound. But 31 pounds in two weeks? I’d say he is a winner.

This proves two things about me and my brother: We are both very, very competitive and we both have freaky metabolisms.

One of the important parts of my brother’s equation is that in those last two weeks he was working hard every night after work renovating the rental apartment in his house. Exercise seems to be the common denominator — and an important one — for both of us. When we are exercising regularly, and are watching what we eat a little, weight drops off. But if we don’t exercise regularly and don’t watch what we eat, watch out: Weight gain, almost immediately.

But let’s bring it back to me. I gain and lose weight with incredible regularity, year after year. Weight gain usually occurs over the winter and weight loss occurs in the spring into summer. Fall is the balanced season, usually.

How does this happen? It is eternally frustrating. When I gain weight, my eating habits do not change drastically, but they do change. In other words, I can’t blame weight gain on eating three boxes or Oreos every day. How I wish it were that simple: Cut out the Oreos and welcome to healthy-weight world. Bizarrely, I think I eat more in the Lean Months: Three regular meals (and if I don’t eat them at the same time, my body almost shuts down), snacks, dessert, lots of water. In the Not-Lean Months, I eat irregularly: Yesterday I skipped lunch and had no snacks. My food-for-the-day boiled down to peanut butter toast for breakfast and then penne with peas and vodka sauce for dinner. Not exactly unhealthy, but not good either. My splurge for the day: I made two batches of chocolate chip cookies and coconut bars for Nicole to take to work, and from that bounty I hade a couple of scrap pieces of coconut bars, mostly for taste-testing purposes (I can’t send a new recipe off to Nicole’s office without ensuring it doesn’t taste like crap).

It is not like you will open my cabinets and find a cornucopia of crap. Pretzels and ice cream is about as dangerous as I get, with a package of salt and vinegar chips thrown in every three months or so. Exercise seems to be the deciding factor, really. If I work out for about 45 minutes a day, six days a week, my metabolism is fine and my weight remains steady. But the instant (literally) my exercise becomes erratic then so does my weight.

Last summer my weight dipped into the 120s. People were saying that I looked too thin, and there was that side of me that thought “YES! Too thin! I look emaciated and unhealthy! Go me!” Sick, isn’t it? Add that to the list of things I don’t want to pass onto my daughters. But the other side of me was a little freaked out, which I didn’t talk about much. I saw my ribs, those bones in my chest and neck, and the shape of my femur bones. My breasts withered to raisins, complete with those tell-tale deep grooves. My arms, in certain angles, looked a liiiiiittle scary. And the weight kept coming off, with no end in sight. So I cut my four-mile run by a half mile, and that was the beginning of the next round of weight gain.

So here I sit, twenty pounds heavier, heading into the summer season not able to fit comfortably in my favorite skirts. I am annoyed to be back in this spot. The thing is I am not terribly worried: I know that within two months (or so; I don’t want to jinx myself) I can get back to a better size. The thing is am really, really, really tired of the cycle. Really tired of Big Me and Smaller Me. Really tired of the wardrobe that spans multiple sizes. Really tired of needing three different bra sizes. Really frustrated that I need to execute a exact dose of exercise in order in stay in a certain range. On the one hand, it seems like a small price to pay. But what can I say? Sometimes it is hard to drag myself out of bed at 5 in the morning and head to the gym. And someone needs to send a memo to my daughters: Absolutely no sleep issues or Momma won’t be able to be a size six.

The other day I was carrying a bag of laundry to drop off, and it weighed 20 pounds. (I only know this because it is a dollar a pound to wash and I had to fork over 20 dollars). It was heavy, people, that bag. 20 pounds makes a big difference. And that is what needs to come off of me, again. I am not happy to be back at the bottom of the mountain.

So much more to say about this issue... it isn't all so neat.

Pictured above, my brother and I a few years back in the Leaner Summer months. We are painting his boat’s hull. It is one of the few pictures of us together. Also pictured, the girls holding hand and running in Aunt Jenni’s yard the other day. Are they going to inherit the C [my last name] Weight Curse?


K J and the kids said...

I swear you are related to Renee Zellweger (sp)
I watched her go from Bridget Jones to Chicago and read how she has this amazing metabolism with exercise.
I think you are lucky that you have the exact formula. So many of us would just like to know how hard we have to suffer to lose the weight. The unknown sends us to the store for another box of oreos because it must be TOO hard to get there or we'd get there faster.

I love the picture of the girls holding hands. SO cute.
I want a backyard like this too.

Anonymous said...

I so hear you on the weight cycle, I am overweight and my weight fluctuates constantly, and it is very frustrating for me not to be able to control it. I am doing WW which helps -- as long as I'm consistent! Additionally, I take an anti-anxiety medication which causes a slow metabolism which sucks.

Because of all the weight/food issues in my family (among the women), I was almost relieved to give birth to a son simply because he'll be less likely to inherit those sorts of body issues, as awful as that sounds.

Pufferfish said...

I love that you talk about weight issues because I can really relate to your posts. I just wrote a post about junk food/issues.
It's great you know if you need to lose it--you can-- and you know what to do. I am the same way.
Kudos to you for getting up at 5am and getting to the gym. Hopefully, those good habits are what the girls will inherit, regardless of the "weight curse."
Good luck, I know you can do it.

tessa said...

I related to a lot of what you wrote (except for the numbers in that I usually gain and lose 10 lbs. and it takes me no more than a month to gain it all and usually 6+ months to lose it!). I'm the same way in that what and how much I eat doesn't seem to have such a great effect on how comfortable I feel in my jeans, but how often and for how long I run has everything to do with it. I remember my grandmother and mother saying a very few insensitive things during my childhood/adolescence and I clung to their words in way that produced a lot of pain for me. I think both my mother and grandmother had a lot to process in terms of body image that they never had at that point and it became very clear in those few instances. That you are so aware of how you feel and think about your body and what you do and don't want to pass on to your daughters I think is key. I've seen changes like that happen through the generations in my family (grandparents trying to not pass on racial bigotry, parents trying to reframe gendered differences) and it all had to do with intentionality.