Sunday, July 07, 2013
On July 7, 2009, I reached my goal weight, the number on the scale (130) that I had chosen when I joined SparkPeople on January 29, 2009. On that day in July, I weighed in at 129.8. My goal then was to maintain my weight within the range of 130 +/- 5 pounds, so 125 - 135.
Four years later (well, I actually weighed myself yesterday), my scale weight is 131. If you are just looking at the scale, it appears to be 4 years with little change, which is what many of us think of as "maintenance." I know that's what I thought when I joined SparkPeople -- reach goal weight and then keep it from changing.
But in fact the past 4 years have been a time of many changes in my true weight (despite what the scale says) and much growth in my health, in my fitness and in my outlook on life. What is important to me now is different than what I thought would be important when I looked forward on that January day in 2009.
On that day when I first reached my goal weight, I also had a body fat test performed with calipers at the gym. The number from that was 30.9%. Of my 129.8 pounds, 40.108 were fat and 89.692 were lean tissue, bone and water. The scale weight I was so proud of (only 5 pounds more than I weighed in high school when I was, quite frankly, skinny) was in fact NOT a healthy weight. And since to all outward appearances, I looked thin, my weight was more than just a little unhealthy. The fat was in the places you don't see -- in my muscles and around my internal organs.
Yesterday, the number from my body fat test was 19.04%. Of my current 131 pounds, 24.948 are fat and 106.052 are tissue, bone and water. Since I probably haven't created a lot of new bone in the last year and my hydration levels are not drastically different either, the bulk of that 16.36 pound lean tissue change is muscle. I've lost 15.16 pounds of fat.
Yes, I know that the measurements aren't terribly precise. Maybe I've only gained 15 pounds of muscle; maybe I've only lost 14 pounds of fat. I don't think that changes the basic narrative.
That body fat test four years ago really opened my eyes to the importance of setting the right goals. I said at the time that my goal was to reach a healthy weight. But like most of us, I didn't really think through what that meant. I chose a number. I reached that number. But I didn't reach my goal.
I still love numbers. Yes, they can be motivational. They can be fun to track and can give you useful feedback.
BUT a life style is actions, what you do every day, and BEING healthy is a process. It is not about reaching a number (even a nice one like 19% body fat.) It is not something you "win," game over.
I am still learning to formulate my goals as actions, as part of an ongoing process, and then to trust that the process will produce the right results for me.
So what are my "healthy" life style goals for the coming year?
My dietary goals can be captured pretty much in Michael Pollen's famous quotes: "Eat [real] food, not too much, mostly plants," and "Always leave the table a little hungry."
My weight measures are how my clothes fit (corroborated by the tape measure), what I see when I look at myself naked in the mirror and how I feel when I move.
Ironically, I have a pair of jeans I bought when I weighed 125 (briefly in 2009) that fit me better today at 131 than they did when I bought them. Clothes don't lie (unless they have lots of elastic). That's why you also need a tape measure.
My fitness goals (for health) are to do resistance training at least twice a week (forever) and to raise my heart rate into the aerobic range a minimum of 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week (forever). I trust this process. The numbers it produces will be the right ones for me.
I also have goals for running, but that's another chapter.