I lost 40 pounds five years ago, and I've kept it off since then. That doesn't mean it has always been easy. I put on seven pounds during the last six months at my old job due to stress and a hectic schedule. I lost it after coming to SparkPeople, but I will admit that my weight is more of a range (plus or minus three pounds) than a firm goal.
Recently, I noticed a trend: Every year, I usually start to reach the upper end of my weight range during the summertime and the lower end in wintertime. (I weigh myself a couple of times a month.) I'm not a beach-goer, and I don't wear shorts or skimpy clothes except to run, so I have never been one to worry about getting in shape for a bikini. Still, I do pride myself on eating right most of the time and sticking with a regular exercise routine.
At various times of the year, depending on my schedule, my mood, and other outside forces, "regular" exercise and eating "right" take on various meanings. Sometimes that means workouts almost every day, or it might mean working out just four days a week. It might mean home-cooked, from-scratch, veggie-heavy meals every night, or it might mean splurging on sweet potato fries at dinner, making do with a bag of carrot sticks and hummus on a road trip, or ordering a mushroom-and-peppers pizza because I am just too tired to cook.
Since I completed my first half-marathon late this spring, I haven't set another fitness goal. I've been running and practicing yoga, with some strength training and cross training, but I haven't been as focused on my fitness. I had spent 18 months working toward progressively larger fitness goals: yoga teacher certification, then my first 5K, 10K, and that half marathon. I don't cope with heat well, so I ultimately decided to take the summer off from training. My mind and body needed a rest.
As a result, I've put on a couple of pounds. My middle feels softer, even though I know the rest of me is stronger from all the yoga, dancing, and walking hills in Istanbul.
I'm OK with all of that. Want to know why?
I'm happy. I'm busy. And I am loved.
That has nothing to do with numbers on a scale.
Instead of Sunday afternoon runs with my girlfriends, we've been meeting for yoga at my house, and visiting the farmers market, wine tastings, and the city's center for concerts. Instead of heading home early on Friday nights, I've been staying out for dinner and live music or cocktails, enjoying cool breezes and long conversations. Instead of running on Tuesday nights, I've been doing whatever I want, sometimes skipping a workout in the process, sometimes taking a walk with my boyfriend. I've been enjoying life.
I went from six or seven days of working out to four or five. My calories burned have been cut in half. I'm still fit and active, but when you're not running long distances, you don't need all those calories.
Instead of obsessing about what I eat or starting a crazy new fitness routine, I'm staying calm. I'm working out regularly, eating right most of the time (though less often than usual some weeks), and trying to make smarter, healthier choices more often. My clothes still fit, I still feel good about myself, and my self-esteem hasn't suffered.
I also feel better knowing I'm not alone. I
I reached out on Twitter, and at least a dozen women responded. Even other healthy living bloggers agreed!
"For some reason I always feel hot and gross and somehow I think FOOD will make it better, said Sabrina. "But then I just feel more hot and gross! I am probably constantly dehydrated or something. Also, there are always so many fun things to do and foods to eat and weddings to attend, and in the winter I just don't do those things. All winter long I drink lots of tea and hot water and prefer to stay in and play board games or go snowboarding etc."
Julie joked: "I eat more in the summer to prepare for winter hibernation. Apparently I'm part bear."
Like Julie, I thought that I might eat more to store up for winter, as an evolutionary response. Our healthy eating expert Tanya said that these days that mindset isn't as true as it was in decades past, people tend to be more active and eat less in summer.
She actually says the extra pounds are packed on because of life. "My summer weight gain can be attributed to a fuller social calendar," said the Orlando resident. "barbecues, summer birthdays, vacations & weddings = Lots of indulgent meals!"
For Courtney, summer means "barbecues & parties, fun summery drinks, soft serve, and a more carefree attitude! Since I teach, my day and meals are also less structured."
And Meghann has plenty of reasons: traveling being her No. 1 reasons, too hot to exercise outside, race season is over in Florida, fun food festivals, and ice cream.
Like many of the bloggers, my gain is attributed to being more social but less active, too. (Tanya agreed with me.) I'm running less often because I am sensitive to the heat, and because I stay up later to enjoy the daylight and cooler temperatures late at night, I'm sleeping in instead of working out in the morning.
Now that I know that I gain weight every summer (and that I'm not alone), I don't have to worry about it as much. Those numbers, while slightly higher than they were a few months ago, mean nothing to me. They don't reflect the past few months of my life: my first house, my trip to Turkey, the car accident I survived. My abs are fluffier, but my full social calendar tells me that the size of my waist is not why people like me.
I've spent too many years obsessing about my weight to stress about it now. I'm back on track, and I refuse to worry about the extra squishy bits around my belly and hips. Instead of loathing my curvier frame, I play up my positive attributes. The empire-waisted sundresses I favor in warm weather regardless of my size accentuate my strong, toned shoulders and long legs. You might not find me in a bikini and short shorts, but you wouldn't catch me wearing those even if I were at my absolute thinnest. It took many years to arrive at this point, but I'm no longer willing to obsess over my appearance. I have too much else to do, like go swimming with my friends this Sunday--in a one-piece swimsuit that makes me feel quite comfortable and confident.
Yoga at the ruins of Ephesus, not caring about how my belly would look in a bathing suit!
Do you gain weight during a particular time of year? Do you ever give yourself permission to relax a little when it comes to weight, fitness, and nutrition?