The Incredible Shrinking Woman

January 18, 2008

And I don’t mean that in a Lily Tomlin way. This morning, I woke up and weighed myself, and the scale said 158 lbs.

Hmm, I thought. That can’t be right. Wasn’t I just saying that my new weight loss goal was to get to 158 and maintain? And when I said that, wasn’t I at least 4 pounds away from weighing 158? And don’t they say that those last few pounds before goal are the hardest to lose? Surely this is a function of the scale being confused. (And this is on a day when I hadn’t even tried to “game” the scale by stepping on it as lightly as possible, rocking back on my heels, and basically balancing on the outer rims of my feet and the tip of my big toe so that, presumably, I’d weigh less. —P.S. Anyone else out there do this? Anyone? Bueller?— No, today I’d just stepped on the scale flat-footed and prepared to take my lumps)

So I stepped off the scale, waited a few seconds, and got back on. A few numbers flashed as the scale adjusted itself to my presence–and these included the number 157–but then it settled, again, on 158. And, as this digital scale likes to do, then blinked it at me for good measure. 158. 158. What do you want from me, lady? 158.

As you can tell from the tone of this post, I am rather surprised at this turn of events. And possibly even a little alarmed, although a look back at the past little while reveals that I probably shouldn’t be (more on that in a sec). WHY would I be alarmed at losing weight that I wanted to lose, you ask? Well–and here comes another fun generalization about black people–in the world I come from, one is always suspicious of unexpected weight loss. In fact in my family in particular, losing weight when you are not actively trying to lose weight, and even sometimes when you ARE actively trying to lose weight, is sometimes assumed to be the result of things like illness, stress, or even drugs. Don’t get me started on how quickly the “she’s probably on crack” rumors start to fly when any famous black woman loses major weight.

My mom actually has lost a bit of weight since she retired a few years ago, mostly because she doesn’t eat as much as she used to, and she definitely doesn’t cook as much since it’s just her. And to me the reasons she is a bit slimmer (and only a bit! she’s no Nicole Ritchie) are clear, but she is always saying things like, “oh, I hope I’m not sick or something. I guess I could have AIDS.” Yes, my mother who once described sex, with a very disgusted look on her face, as “messy,” and who, as far as I can tell, has not had sex since I was conceived in 1974, is worried that losing 10 or 12 pounds over the course of a few years may be an indication of an extremely late-developing HIV infection. And she’s not fishing for compliments, either, feigning concern so we’ll discuss her weight! The woman is SINCERE.

Naturally, when she was here over Christmas, she was simultaneously pleased at my weight loss and worried that I would “overdo it.” “But don’t lose TOO much weight, Cityprof,” she’d say, in the same breath as telling me how great I look and how she wishes the rest of the family in Texas could see my fabulousness. “You don’t want to get TOO THIN.”

Lest you think that I am extrapolating one woman’s lunacy to the entire black community, I should also say that although I haven’t yet personally gotten too many “girl, don’t lose too much!” responses from others, over the years I have heard many people, friends and family, talking about how so-and-so has really gotten “TOO THIN,” which is always said in a way that implies the person is one step away from death. I have an aunt who lost a bunch of weight about ten years ago, and who even became an aerobics instructor, and seriously, word in the family was basically, “she just looks emaciated!” Trust me, she didn’t. She just looked fit, and slim, albeit much smaller than she had been.

Maybe it’s just my crazy family. Who generally are NOT extremely overweight, I should add. It’s not that they want everyone to weigh 300 pounds along with them. My aunts and female cousins are generally a glamorous and shapely bunch, who care deeply about appearance, and spend a lot of time on (big) hair and (heavy) makeup, and my uncles tend toward the tall and lanky, and only put on a little weight as they get older, but they still are all remarkably sensitive to the “so-and-so is TOO THIN” concern. What is that about? Perhaps a topic for another post. Or an entire dissertation.

Anyway, so maybe I’ve been brainwashed, but of course when these four pounds standing between me and 158 literally seemed to fall off without effort, I was a little alarmed. Am I on my way to becoming “TOO THIN”? The horror!

Then, of course, I thought back. There are a few things I’ve been doing differently in the past 10 days.

1. Skipping dessert most days
2. Not eating out very much
3. Eating a lot of protein, and smaller meals in general
AND, most importantly, and probably the cause of the other 3:
4. Jogging every few days in the park, in addition to my other workouts. I’d say I’ve worked out twice as much as I usually do, because instead of these jogs replacing my regular cardio, they’ve been in addition to it. And since really good cardio workouts tend to suppress my appetite these days (take THAT, Gary Taubes!), I just haven’t been that hungry, or interested in overdoing it.

Hence, I’ve arrived at minus 40 lbs. Seemingly without “trying,” but really by eating less and exercising more. Dammit, isn’t that always the “secret”?

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