Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dream Weight

Photo by my boyfriend, Bob.

For months, maybe even years, I've been thinking that since I'm five feet, two inches tall and shrinking, my ideal weight would be 118 pounds. This weight has seemed variably far away or impossible, depending on my state of fitness. But in the past month, I've been having some health problems that have affected my ability to eat. Unable to consume my usual diet, but not being willing to reduce my daily exercise, I suddenly dropped weight over the course of a few weeks. Sometimes your dreams do come true.

One day this month, the scale registered 118 pounds (see photo). I was stunned. I had reached my goal weight, my floating dream weight! It was a miracle. I felt so happy, so accomplished. My body was now perfect.

Or so I had expected. All those years I had been thinking that weighing 118 pounds would mean all my problem areas would be gone. That's what ideal weight means, right? Wrong. Losing weight in my 40's is proving quite different from losing weight in my 30's. I can no longer count on the weightloss to even out my proportions. I've been trying on clothes and looking in the mirror, trying on clothes and looking in the mirror. It turns out that weighing 118 pounds means I look thin, but my problem area is still solidly there: when I totally relax, I could easily be mistaken for being pregnant. It's the abdominal bulge I've spent my life hating and it's still there, even when the rest of my body is totally thin.

I exercise almost every day for over an hour. I conscientiously stick to 45 minutes of cardiovascular activity, followed by 30 minutes of resistance training, alternating days between arms, legs and core, with pilates thrown in for good measure. I watch what I eat and no one can call me overweight. But even when I lose as much weight as possible, my stomach still protrudes as if carrying a baby. As hard, hard, hard as I exercise and as far below 120 pounds as I can get, I think there isn't anything I can do about this 41-year-old body of mine. It is what it is.

It's sobering to give up the fantasy that there's an ideal weight at which my body will look 20 years old again. There isn't. At this point, the best I can achieve is looking great for a woman in her 40's. If I try to lose weight beyond that point, I'll appear starving and/or like a middle-aged woman who's trying too hard (we've all seen them). Working out every day and building muscle and trimming down and losing all the body fat just isn't going to get me a 20-year-old, hourglass figure, no matter what. I'm 41 and that means that exercising and dieting and self-discipline will help me look great, but not like Jessica Alba.

(p.s. Since reaching the 118-pound mark, my health problems have diminished and my weight has started going back up to its usual point in the 120's. Just as well.)

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