It was a routine check-up at the doctor. I've consistently been 165-166 pounds for years, both before and after Marissa was born. In the last month, I had actually consistently started seeing 163 on the scale at home. But for one reason or another (time of day, clothes, etc), compared to last year's weight on their scale of 167, I showed up a few pounds heavier at 171 that day.
The doctor came in, and she immediately pointed this out as a major concern. She tells me that ideally she'd like to see me about 30-35 pounds lighter so there's a health concern about my current weight! I looked her straight in the eye and said, "I don't know what to tell you. I know what you are seeing, but I ran 8 half marathons last year. I've already run 4 half marathons this year. I'm consistently running about 25-27 miles per week. I do love my junk food, but I don't go way overboard with it." She was stunned.
"Wait, how many half marathons?" she said.
Yeah, ya heard me right. She said, "Well, then let's not even worry about this number. We don't need to discuss it again."
I said, "No, really, do you think there's a problem? I also don't understand why I'm 30-35 pounds over the "ideal weight" for someone my height. I've increased my running consistently over the last 1 1/2 years and my weight does not move. Is there a problem?"
She said, "Are you happy with how your clothes fit?"
I said, "Well, I'm a size 12. I'm not a size 6, but, yeah, I'm fine with it."
She said, "Good, then don't worry about it again!"
She then went on to look at my blood pressure that had just been taken and told me it looked great. She looked at the blood test we took a year ago for cholesterol and did a double-take - turns out my cholesterol is EXCELLENT!
As we moved on, I ended the weight/health discussion with telling her how I had recently been thinking a lot about how this felt to me like I was in the best shape of my life so far. Healthier than even back around the year 2003 where I had a personal trainer I saw once a week, regularly lifted weights in the gym, did Pilates 4-5 times a week, and was 30 pounds lighter! I don't think I could have run a mile without keeling over and dying back then. :-) Even if I did look so much "healthier".
Yes, I know I have a less than ideal fat percentage. And I'm not abdicating responsibility - I know that if I ate healthier, I would lose more weight. My point is that it goes to show, weight is just a number, it doesn't tell the whole story. Yes, it can be a helpful metric towards quantifying a person's health. But it needs to be considered along with a number of other variables and factors.
What is Ideal Weight?
A lot of doctors and health professionals still advise people about their weight based on BMI. This was what led my doctor to discuss that my generally ideal weight should be 130-135 pounds. But BMI was crafted as a ratio derived from only two things: height and weight. It doesn't take gender, physical activity level, body fat percentage, or frame/build into account. It then categorizes ranges of the ratios into Underweight, Normal Weight, Overweight, and Obese. For me, I'm right towards the bottom, but still IN, the overweight category with a 25.5 BMI (25.0 is the bottom of the overweight category). And to be 130-135 pounds would put me squarely in the middle of the "normal weight" range. Want to see more about why BMI is a bogus measurement? NPR gives you 10 reasons!
So I know this antiquated measure does not define my state of health. And I'm very glad my doctor and I could have that conversation and talk through some of those other variables.
And if you are running more and GAINING weight?
On a related note, I've heard a lot of people who gain weight as they increase running mileage or do longer runs or train for half or full marathons. So to close, here are a couple tips for runners to avoid weight gain (aside from the standard Eat Healthy):
- Don't use long runs or high miles as an excuse to eat anything and everything you see.
- Watch your hunger after a long run. Don't binge!
- Keep hydrated! Helps keep weight off and good for you as a runner anyway.
- Recognize that weight gain or lack of weight loss (weight plateau) could be a sign of increased muscle mass. By keeping track of body measurements and body fat %, you can confirm that's the cause.