Ditch the Waistband

I’m always asking myself, what have I learned? Good experiences. Bad experiences. Why training has gone great, bad or indifferent. The marathon that flopped, or a personal best finish. Any effort worth improving is an effort worth evaluating.

In an ideal world I’d have compiled all these lessons learned, written a book, and I’d be filthy rich. The problem is that nothing stays the same. Last year’s effort is slightly different from this year – in large part because I’ve gotten a year older. Being successful this year almost always requires a different approach from last year. Maybe you could say that sucks, but it does keep life interesting.

This story began two years ago when my husband had just retired. He enthusiastically took over the cooking, we went out for lunch every day (because that’s what he had done for upteen dozen years before retirement), and slowly but surely I gained weight.

All things being unequal, as previously stated, ‘age’ ensures the battle is all new. Whatever worked before is now rendered useless.

I was running on average 60 miles/week when I first noticed the weight gain (amazingly). Then during last season’s training, I ran up the mountain several times a week – essentially a 12 week weight-lifting program that made my calves, thighs and bum more muscular, and larger than ever before. My pants no longer fit. Meanwhile, my husband continued to cook, we ate out. . . it was the perfect storm.

Panic ensued. I changed my wardrobe. Abandoned anything in my closet with a waistband, blamed it on my age, my thyroid, my training. I cut back, as I have every other time I’ve gained a little weight. It didn’t help. My husband told me I had never looked better. My parents and my sister said I looked healthier. I tried to adapt. Finally, I went into full crisis mode.

The first thing folks usually say when I complain about gaining weight is, “Seriously? You’re worried about weight?” It’s an unfair response. On a percentage basis, I’ve added roughly 15% to my body mass. It doesn’t matter what size a person starts at, it affects you in so many ways.

My husband clapped his hands one morning and said, “We have to figure out whether it’s physiological, emotional, or self-control.” He downloaded the ‘Lose It’ app during coffee, and made an appointment with my doctor.

We started out by entering a typical day’s known calories: a cappuccino, granola and yogurt for breakfast, an afternoon snack, wine with dinner. These things seemed non-negotiable (for now). Everything else was at risk. The daily budget was set at 1349 calories.

Friday afternoon I stepped onto the scale at the doctor’s office. It registered 125 pounds. I was devastated.

My doctor asked me a series of questions – after the nurse had asked even more. Do you wear your seat belt? Exercise every day? Have you felt stressed in the past few weeks? (Yes!) Finally, he pushed his chair back, threw his hands up in the air and said the same thing he had said to me two years ago, “I don’t know what to say to you. You have no issues.”

I asked if he had any concerns about my weight gain? This forced him to look back in the files. I visited him in 2012 at 109 pounds, and again in 2015 at 118. He very carefully suggested women are somewhat healthier if they carry a little more weight as they age. I laughed and told him my mother told me the same thing.

In September 2013 I wrote a post about the Body Mass Index (BMI), had deemed it useless, and vowed to never reference it again (What does BMI have to do with running anyway?) I had spent 12 weeks monitoring my weight (and BMI) to determine the ideal weight that would produce the fastest race times. At the end of the 12 weeks, I asked myself what I had learned and wrote my conclusions to this blog:

1. in sports, as in life, there is a point of diminishing return – you can be too thin,

2. it is much more valuable to gain muscle mass than to lose random pounds,

3. better to maintain a weight that is comfortable – everyone is unique and charts are only references, not identities or labels.

During the years that my weight was the lowest, I lived alone 4-5 days a week – meaning I cooked for myself, which was slight at best. With all this time to myself, it wasn’t unusual for me to run, cycle, and work in the yard all in one day. Going back to school meant that I added hiking, swimming, rowing, and climbing to my marathon training schedule. It was a schedule I enjoyed, but a schedule I no longer wanted to maintain when my husband retired. Looking back, it should have been no surprise that I might gain weight.

My current position on the SBMI chart.

A Smart BMI Calculator has been developed specific to men, women, children, juveniles and seniors (it was created just six months after my original post on the subject). This calculator has helped me determine that 114 lbs is probably my ideal weight, although my current weight is also well within the low health risk zone. (See the SBMI calculator here.)

Reaching my target weight may be harder this year than in previous years, but the lesson learned closely aligns with the conclusion I reached over 3 years ago.

We might be ideal just the way we are.

The 125 pound version of me. January 2017
One of many ‘ditch the waistband’ outfits.


A much thinner me. October 2014

After two days of tracking calories, I declared Friday would be my official ‘cheat day,’ but I had also moved my long run to Friday to beat the snow storm and ended the first three days 745 calories under budget. Every day is a challenge, but I’m a lucky girl indeed to have my husband’s love and support.