Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Weight Problem

Like many women, weight is not my favorite topic. I don’t own a scale. I don’t need to know that number on a daily basis. If I had access to a scale in my home, I might eat a lot less, but I would obsess a lot more. I’m not a numbers freak; I’m just competitive. What? I weigh how much more than before breakfast? Maybe I should walk up and down the stairs a few times and then recheck. It’s the same reason I stopped keeping a training log for my running many years ago. It pained me to write lower mileage in than the previous training session. So, I did away with training logs and scales and I’m much happier for it. Heck, my body knows when I’m overtraining or undertraining, and it sure knows when I need to cut down on the snacks (that’s pretty much always). I check my weight at my occasional doctor’s appointment or when I visit The In-Laws. Everyone’s happy.

Since starting BJJ–which incidentally was one year ago last week!—I have been pleased with how it has changed my body. Mommy Belly? Gone. I even splurged for some bikinis this summer. (Yes, I was that Forty+-Year-Old trying to rock the bikini on the beach. I apologize to all those I visually offended. To the person who shouted, “Put on a cover-up, Old-Timer! We’re not in Europe!” shame on you for your rude American stereotyping.)
Where is this going? Well, I did this 20k in September after training all summer long. Immediately after the race, I was at The In-Laws. “Great!” I thought. “I bet I’m totally low on the scale!” It was a humid day and I sweat pounds of water out of my body. The mileage I put in over the summer coupled with my new jiu jitsu habit was surely going to give me a nice, happy number on the scale. I showered from my race and hopped on naked, not even a sock to muddy the calculation. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. Now, I would have been happy if the scale said the same or slightly higher than it did last year. I’ve gained a lot of muscle! But . . . the scale said I was about 6 pounds heavier than last year. SIX Freaking Pounds! (This is where I remind all you tall people that 6# is almost 6% of my body weight.)

A six-pound chicken, for comparison.
            Something clearly was wrong. The scale was probably uncalibrated. I tried again. I moved it away from the wall. I turned it around. I stepped on one foot. I repositioned my feet. Nope. Same answer. Clearly the scale was broken. I left confident in my assessment, or at least too dehydrated to come to a better conclusion.

Over the Great Power Outage, I visited The In-Laws quite a bit. I was curious to meet up with The Scale again to see what it had to say this time. I braced myself and stepped on. The number was even higher. It was time to take this thing public.
            “Mom-In-Law, is your scale accurate?”
            “Yes, It’s accurate.”
            “It’s not broken or off by a few pounds?”
            “No. . . .Well, yes, it is off by a few pounds.”
            “That’s what I thought. How much?”
            “It’s a little low—I’m always a few pounds heavier at the doctor’s.”
I called Husband in for back up. He got on the scale. “I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “It’s where I’ve always been.”

You are freaking kidding me. I’ve busted my hump for the last year, and I’ve gained weight? Who does that? All I read are the stories of people losing weight to jiu jitsu. “Girl starts Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Girl loses weight. Girl feels healthy, strong, and confident.” (Rock on, ladies.) So, what the eff is up with me?

I’ve calmed down a bit since then, and I’ve come to terms with The Scale. I will no longer step on it, and it will no longer give me numbers I don’t want to see. Despite The Scale, I’ve had a few comments recently from people I haven’t seen in a while like, “How do you stay so in shape?” Hey, I do feel healthy, strong, and confident. What do numbers mean, anyway?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Eat up!


  1. Oh my gosh, been there done that. But worry not Shark Girl! I lost inches after I started training in jiu jitsu, but my weight stayed the same. I had GAINED a ton of muscle, which was a great thing, albeit terrible deceptive on the scale.


  2. I would bet that you look better now then you did last year. I'm sure you are more toned & fit.

    I too have a hard time with the number on the scale. For a while I obsessed about maintaining my weight watcher goal weight. But I didn't train when I was on Weight Watchers. BJJ & CrossFit have built up my muscles so that goal weight is no longer right for me. I look too drawn when I get there.

    Tournaments are my biggest concern. I used to try to cut to fit into a lower weight class, but eventually realized that I am much stronger when fighting at my real weight. Happy Thanksgiving!!

  3. Yeah, I think the how-do-my-clothes-fit scale the best choice for weight monitoring.
    Thanks for your blog. It has encouraged me to start one of my own: .

  4. Hi Shark Girl, I had the same thing as you talk about. I gained 10 lbs of muscle weight. I exercise outside of grappling as well, but it's kickboxing and cardio.

    But my butt shrank a size and my chest grew a size, waist stayed the same, and boobs shrank (or seemed to, cup size stayed the same, back and chest grew bigger). It's not a very feminine look, and I wouldn't be caught dead in a bikini anywhere. :)

    Anyhow, seems normal? (picturing a lolcat in spandex saying "BJJ! Yr doin it rite!")

  5. @ Dag: yes, it is deceptive on the scale. I don't want to be a brittle waif of a thing. It's just shocking . . . I haven't seen these kind of numbers on the scale since I was pregnant. (I was smart enough to stay off the scale after that semester in Italy.)

    @FM: Those "official" weight goals don't expect women to have muscles. You know, I don't feel like I'm training so hard...i used to lift more weights and all. I guess trying to roll 200# guys off of you builds more muscle than I thought.

    @Anon1: Wow, that's great! Can't wait to check it out. (PS: it makes me happy that you like my blog.)

    @Anon2:So glad I'm not the only one. I haven't checked inches. I run outside of bjj. If I keep wearing those bikinis, I may be caught dead in them [insert lolcat in bikini : ) ].

  6. Shark Girl, yes it does. I believe BJJ works muscles we never even knew we had.

    @ Anony2, I also share your boyish figure as a result of my weight loss. However, at Kohl's this summer I was happy to find bikini tops that were marketed to us small chested women. They were much more flattering.

  7. Look for a place (like a spa or gym) that does body fat analysis (not using calipers, but a BodPod, or better, water displacement.)

    I discovered that me, when 5'2" 137 lbs (which is technically considered nearly obese on some websites, the dastardly dastards) bears a mere 18% bodyfat (which is considered "lean", just a few tenths of a % away from "very lean, a level of bodyfat maintained by elite athletes.")

    Nevermind that I'm not 137 lbs right now. I will get back there. So don't worry about the scale-- how do you fit in the clothes :)

  8. Scales can be useful, but it depends on what you want to use them for. In your case, it does not sound like the right tool for the job. Instead of weight you should go by how you feel and how you look. Just as a side note - MUSCLE weighs almost twice as much as FAT for the same volume. So if you lost some fat that would be great and would show a lower weight on the scale, but if you also gained an equivalent volume of muscle you are going to weigh a decent amount more. If you put on a LOT of muscle you are going to weigh a lot more.

    STRONG is the new SEXY.

  9. @Georgette + Zen: I would be curious to see what my BMI is...I doubt I'm near elite athlete. I still have some flab rolls to grab. : )It is so hard to move away from the number meaning something, though I agree I have much more muscle than last year. The clothes are fitting well; not as well as they were last winter. I noticed my stomach went down at first, and then beefed up a little with some muscle. You are both probs right...I'm sure I gained more muscle than I think, but it just is hard to reconcile...I'm in great shape and look fine, but weigh more than I've ever. GO figure!

    Zen, strong is the new sexy! At least according to Husband!


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