Monday, August 26, 2013

Scales Ain't Shit

Okay.  Here is a thing that has been occupying a bunch of my attention: the scale.

On August 1, I added a new warm-up progression to my lifting sessions, one that about doubled my volume—not the load, just the number of reps I perform at any load.

At my very next session, my weight had shot up 5 pounds.  Okay, self, I said, this is water weight from increased volume; I have heard that this can be a thing.  It will go away.  And I waited for it to go away, weighing myself more than is really a good idea.  Every time I'm at the gym.  Before and after my session.  Uh-oh.

It did not go away.  I held steady for nearly three weeks at that higher weight.  And when it finally started to change, it went up.  I put on my customary three or four pounds in the several days before my period.  Okay, self, I said, this is water weight from hormones and whatever.  It will go away.  Maybe it will all go away after your period.

It did not go away.  My period ended and I didn't drop anything.  Not one of those presumably-water pounds.  I'm currently eight to twelve pounds over where I was at the end of July.

And I can see it, too.  My face is puffy.  My measure-pants barely button when they button, and sometimes they don't.  All of my clothes fit differently.  The bulges around my bra band were driving me so berserk that I switched up to an old bra in a bigger band size.

It has been, for the last nearly-four weeks now, a daily investment of effort to make sure that I don't freak out and start restricting.  I have not started restricting, though I have been quietly freaking out a little.  Shit shit shit shit shit, my mental monologue has gone.  I have mollified myself with repeated readings of articles about weight lifting & water retention and also with the fact that this month has been so damn productive in the gym.  My squat is up 30 pounds and the month isn't even over yet.  That's more than it went up in the two months prior.  Damn.  I have reviewed my food logs to make sure that I feel good about them; I do.  I am not eating beyond my hunger.  My intake is balanced.  And I feel good.  So I have been working over those reminders on the daily, to stave off the freakout.

Two days ago, my boyfriend, whose policy on commentary on minor aesthetic changes to my body is NO NEVER EVER (and bless him for it), looked at me towards the end of a busy afternoon of nakedness for long enough that I said, "What?"  He said, "You look so good.  Your shape.  It must be all the weights you're lifting."

Um, okay.

Today I stopped in the deli by the bus stop for a Diet Coke (I <3 aspartame; Diet Coke is maybe the only dietary habit I have that I really consider a vice), and the owner was there.  This man, who is fond of me at any size and has been so for a year now, lost his damn mind.  His eyes lit up when I walked in; he told me how beautiful I am several times.  Then he asked if I had been losing weight.

NO, deli man, I HAVE NOT.  I weigh six to eight pounds more than I did when last you told me several times how beautiful I am, circa mid-June.

But I am willing to believe that these two people see something that I do not see.  I have heard of this thing happening to other people.  The articles on starting, intensifying, or increasing lifting and retaining water suggest a timeline of weeks and mention this exact thing: you will look different, but you will not weigh less.  I may not be the lone exception to this trend, and it might be my blind spot, not my bionic eyes ("Can you seriously not see how puffy I look?" I keep saying to my boyfriend.  "How can you not see it?"), that is showing me only the bloaty parts and not some overall effect that I am too close to see.  This might be a "new normal" because muscles and intracellular water or whatever, or it might be temporary but not as temporary as I would like (fingers still crossed for this last one, because, neurotic).

So as this has ticked along I have started thinking about the role of the scale in my whole thing.  I have repeated to myself the last sentences of this article: "Your scale is broken.  Bring it to me and I will fix it.  With my sledgehammer."  Why do I need to know that piece of data?  What if I stopped knowing it?  What if I trusted my sense of my behavior and my experience of my embodied self?  What if I stopped knowing what I weigh?  What if I stopped knowing it forever?

Today, in the gym, I had already weighed myself, hoping I had finally started to drain (NOPE.  ROCK SOLID) and was changing when a middle-aged woman and a young girl came into the locker room together.  I assumed that they were mother and daughter.  The girl couldn't have been older than fourteen, and she was totally normal-sized.  The mother got on the scale and went to go change.  Then the girl got on the scale and then went to report the number to her mother in a whisper.  They discussed it in lowered voices; I caught the phrase "lose ten pounds" from the girl.

I almost cried.  I don't mean to sound precious or pretentious or sanctimonious or whatever; I am reporting the facts of my reaction.  I almost cried.  I had a fleeting thought of saying something, but what would I say?  It's none of my business.

I am not ready to say I am going cold turkey right this second.  But I am really close to saying that.  I think I have moved past precontemplation and into regular contemplation.  What if I gave up knowing what I weighed?  What if I gave up this fucked-up female compulsion, this fundamentally irrelevant data point?  What if I started now to become the woman I hope will be able to raise a daughter who can be free of this particular obsession?  What if I thought of this as a service to the child I was and the child I'll have?

Getting closer.


Anna said...

Not for nothing I have had the same thing happen when I have up'ed my strength training. My clothes fit differently, my weight's up but the general reports are I look smaller. Then somewhere between 3-8 weeks later I have a significant drop. I wish I could say that I am relaxed during this time and not obsessively looking at myself, trying on clothes and feeling like I am being delusional in thinking I getting smaller despite what the scale says.

Lately I have been on a downward trend and while I am pleased with this I have been more pleased by not knowing how much I'm losing, or what my weight is currently. I have found nothing good comes from the number. I still attach too much unnatural meaning to it. What is important is I feel good, I feel about myself, my choices, how my relationship with food is evolving. Why mess all of that up or undermine it because of a number? There's no winning. If I am pleased with it I say I am a better person because it's low, if it's higher then I want I am failing despite everything else I value. It's not worth it. The number is a number but the cost is just to high not the number.

Em said...

I saw your lady yesterday (Marisa) (thanks for talking me into it), and she also affirmed. I wasn't weighing (hey, I am not always stupid!) when I started lifting last summer, so I don't have a prior sense of how this stuff works for me. I'm slogging through it, steadily.

My sense is that this is a new normal for me, because glycogen or something. But the fact that it still seems like a good thing is, I guess, itself a good thing. Like, I am not going to stop doing what I'm doing, because it is really important to me to squat 200 pounds by this winter, and I know feeding myself properly is the only way to achieve that goal and also a good thing to do in and of itself.

It's funny, because one of the things about being generally a smart human is that I tend to believe my own thinking, and it is humbling to come up against places where I'm just wrong, like, straight-up. My reflexive perceptions of what is happening here are not accurate, and my thoughts are symptoms, not useful guides to a better situation. I am trying to keep reminding myself of that.

Anna said...

"My reflexive perceptions of what is happening here are not accurate, and my thoughts are symptoms, not useful guides to a better situation." I L-O-V-E this because it's so true. I consistently find continuing treatment to be the most humbling thing I have done. There are many areas and things I am "right" about. This is not always one. This is one where people I have designated to be true, right, and healthy have to help me out and check me.

Really happy you saw Marisa. She's really great. I'm seeing Lindsay and also find her fantastic. I just think having a healthy reference and check in is always helpful. No reason to go at it alone if you don't have to.

Em said...

It's unbelievable that coming up on nine years after treatment, I am still having moments where I go, "OH. Whoops. There's ANOTHER thing I have been wrong about for years and years and years."

Even though the last year has been a vast improvement, just in the last couple of months I've been working on backing off carb restriction and getting my intake up another notch (partially to fuel new activity, partially just to more adequately support basic function) and have had a whole new set. It's a *little* less surprising now than it used to be (OH, WRONG SOME MORE IN THE USUAL SORTS OF WAYS), but it's still something I resist and resist until I suddenly get the click.

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