No actual numbers were harmed (or used) in the making of this post. While I do discuss my eating disordered history, I’ve tried to keep triggers to a minimum and if you are suffering from an eating disorder I would actually encourage you to keep reading. This is my message of hope. If I can do this, you can do this. Hope: for you, from me.
All those years I taught college I kept waiting to see this happen. What really amazes me about this pic is not that his pants finally fell down (is that a water bottle?!) but that this doesn’t happen more often. Finally, someone who has a harder time finding jeans that fit than I do!
The Gym Buddies were worried. My husband was worried. And I, of course, was worried — because hey that’s just what I do. Even Jelly Bean was worried although her worry stems from a new-found fear of the dark leading to a very loud and demanding “Mommy MOVE OVER!” in the middle of the night while she attempts to worm her way into our bed. (Side note: it’s not happening. I can’t sleep with my kids in my bed. I’m not anti-co-sleeping, I just don’t sleep well with tiny people. Whoever invented the phrase “sleep like a baby” has clearly never seen one sleep. She gets to sleep with her light on instead.) ANYHOW. This past week I completed all my testing that I’m doing for May’s Great Experiment Fitness Experiment and it has been a learning experience on many different levels. First, I learned a lot of interesting things about my body and how it works. But even more importantly I learned how very far I’ve come. I don’t say this often but: I’m proud of myself.
If I thought spitting in little vials was hard (It is! Have you tried it yet??), then what came next was seriously intense. This past week, in public with several other people reading the numbers, I:
– was weighed
– had my body fat measured
– had my RMR (resting metabolic rate) measured
– had my VO2 max (estimated) and cardio fitness tested
– had my body assessed for muscular imbalances, injuries etc.
Five years ago this would have sent me into a tailspin of excessive exercise and dieting. Two years ago I wouldn’t have even attempted to do this; I was too fragile. But this time I surprised myself. It’s been such a crazy, interesting, educational and yes, positive experience that I wanted to share with you guys what I’ve learned. It’s been intense but amazing. (Not unlike the time my college roommates introduced me to the poor-girl’s fancy coffeehouse drink by buying a 99 cent hot chocolate at 7-11 and then pouring in several of every coffee creamer and flavoring syrup they offered until it filled a giant Slurpee cup. I was not a nutrition major. Obviously.)
Here’s why I’m telling you all this: Every week I get at least three, if not more, e-mails from girls suffering from eating disorders. They make me laugh, think and smile because inevitably it was written by a smart, charming, and utterly beautiful-inside-and-out soul. Every single one of you feels like a kindred spirit. But they also make me cry. Because of all the pain in them. I remember very well (mostly because it wasn’t all that long ago) how very dark, isolating, depressing things eating disorders are. I remember that the harder I tried to control everything, the more out-of-control I felt. I remember the first time I admitted I needed help – on here, incidentally – and how scary that was. I remember those first tentative steps in recovery where everything felt so hard and every single day felt like a monumental struggle made even more depressing because what I was struggling so hard for was to just be “normal.” I remember not wanting anyone to know and feeling like not only did everyone know but they were all judging me.
But I do not feel that way anymore — and I say that with no equivocation. All of those little steps added up and while I will never say I am fully “recovered” (those voices die hard) I will say that I am happy and healthy and it doesn’t feel like a constant fight to be here. There’s a lightness in me I didn’t think I’d ever have, and I’m not talking about physical lightness. If you are struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating or even bad body image I want you to know that it does get easier. And getting better is worth it.
So this week I’m going to be detailing the five tests I took and sharing both the physical and mental lessons I’ve learned so far. For you science geeks, I’ll also get into the reasoning behind the tests and what they are good for and why you may (or may not) want to take them. But I’ll also talk about the psych stuff. Because when it comes down to me vs. my numbers, I win. Every time. (Note: I will not be sharing any of my actual numbers with you. I know that urge to compare is strong and I love you guys too much to do that!)
Lesson 1 (InBody Testing): My Weight Doesn’t Define Me
Stepping onto the metal platform of the InBody machine – a super cool device that calculates not only your weight, BMI, and body fat percentage but also how strong your muscles are, where you are retaining water and if you have inflammation – is like waiting to get beamed up to the mother ship. Lights flash, numbers spin and while it works by the same principle as the body fat scales you can buy at the store (bio-electrical impedance) it’s way more high tech and it doesn’t feel a bit like being electrocuted!
And, according to the manufacturer, it’s 98% accurate compared to DEXA and hydrostatic weighing except the InBody only takes 30 seconds and you get to keep all your clothes on! Because the InBody measures each part separately it “does not need to use statistical data in calculating other values because its results are much more accurate. It accurately evaluates a wide range of individual, especially those with unique body types such as children, extremely obese physiques, senior adults and athletes.” This is important because as I learned the hard way, even the venerated Bod Pod operates off of estimates and predictive formulas – not bad if you fall in the normative group but the group the Bod Pod is most likely to get wrong? Lean females. Other BIA devices like the “body fat” scales or handheld devices consistently overestimate body fat on athletes for the same reason.
So, for the price of one “beam me up Scotty” joke you get a printout that shows:
Lean Body Mass
Body Fat Mass
Current Total Body Water
Dry Lean Mass
Body Mass Index(BMI)
Percent Body Fat
Segmental Lean Mass(Right Arm, Left Arm, Trunk, Right Leg, Left Leg)
Fat Control, LBM Control, Basal Metabolic Rate
Impedance of each segment at each frequency
As soon as I saw my numbers*, my pants suddenly made sense. See all these years I’ve just assumed my right leg was shorter than my left because my pants hem always drags on the ground on that side and the thigh area always feels too tight. Turns out that’s because my right thigh is substantially stronger than my left! Thank heavens for stretch jeans! And to add weirdness, my left arm is stronger than my right. I don’t know how that happened either. (I was a right tumbler in gymnastics? I always carry my kids on my left side? I’m a freak?)
I was jerked out of my jeans reverie by Thom Rieck, my metabolic specialist (how cool is that job?!), commenting clinically, “Your weight is right in the healthy range” as he wrote it down for me. My weight?
After not weighing myself for so long that I can’t even remember the last time I did (although my doctor weighed me when I went in for my annual checkup a few months ago), when Thom first asked me how much I weighed I was a little taken aback. Did I even know? I guessed. And then when I saw the number come up on the InBody I was elated! Seriously. Not because it was my magic “perfect” weight number or because I’d magically lost 10 pounds but because I’d guessed my weight correctly to the very pound. This, to the pound, is the weight that I’ve held steady at for nearly two years now by doing Intuitive Eating. If you would have told me before that I would go two whole years without varying so much as a pound I would have thought you were insane. I’m a veteran of the diet roller coaster! I can fluctuate 10 pounds in a week! But not anymore. This, for me, is nothing short of a miracle.
My first reaction on seeing my weight was happiness. Because this is where my body is happy and for the first time in probably my entire adult life my body and my mind are not at war with each other.
Next up tomorrow (in a much shorter post, promise!) I’ll go over my body fat test!
How do you do with numbers? Are you able to see them as just information or do they hold a lot of emotional value for you too? Are you stronger on one side than the other? Anyone else have weird fitting jeans??
*Full disclosure: I got to try out this test for free, courtesy of Lifetime Fitness. Several of you have asked if you have to be a member of Lifetime Fitness to take these fitness assessments and good news: you don’t! Just call up any one of the 96 Lifetime gyms around the country and you can schedule your test.