Friday, November 4, 2011

Worth Its Weight / Wait

Remember the recalibration? It's been a while since I've spoken about it but I did some recon this morning and things are ticking along.

It so happens that my preferred method of assessment is the measuring tape. Let's extol its virtues for a moment, yes? It can fit in the smallest of purses (not that you're carrying it around, necessarily, but you can't say the same of a scale). It costs a dollar - so why not own 10? It comes with two systems of measurement - you can feel free to be metric or whatever the non-metric system is called. But best of all, it actually gives you the information you require to determine why your wardrobe is now fitting or not fitting and/or what size of clothing you should be looking at next time you make or buy something. The scale ain't gonna do that.

I heartily recommend that everyone check her measurements prior to a shopping spree - just to get a sense about whether she's going to be looking at one general size range or another. Even though RTW sizing is all over the map, the tape tells you about you - relative to the last time you checked. That's useful. Having said that, I'm the woman who customizes her dress forms to her own personal measurements. Perhaps mine isn't the median perspective.

When your body changes shape, for the myriad reasons and in the myriad ways in which it does, the transition does not always occur where you imagine it will (or should). Just ask those who lose a lot of weight while still it clings to one long-standing spot. Or the women in perimenopause who gain mass in the midsection- even if that has never been the tendency. It's useless to know, for example, that your weight hasn't changed in 10 years, if every time you go to put on a certain garment, it won't close. Measuring tapes can give you more information than a scale ever will.

Which brings me to my point: The measuring tape only cares to tell you about how things will fit. It's not prejudicial. It doesn't fuck with your mind by going up and down and sideways 5 lbs on a whim. To what, exactly, does your weight correlate? (Let's not veer into discussion about diabetes or heart disease - this isn't a post about physical health.)

Intriguingly, though, even when one uses a measuring tape to advise about the specifics of body proportions, it doesn't necessarily tell the full tale. My 5-second, angst-free measuring tape moment this morning told me that my bust, waist and hip measurements have each decreased by 1 inch since the beginning of September.* (BTW - I had a similarly unemotional moment 2 months ago when I learned my measurements had increased over the summer. It's not like my clothes and photos didn't tell me the same thing...) But let's consider this for a moment.

I can tell you that my bras are fitting differently. As you may know, I have a selection of bras in slightly different back and cup sizes to address previous fluctuations. The ones with the smallest back measurements were off limits for a while, until recently. Happily, I have equally nice lingerie in the next back size up. (Why should I be punished for my body's propensity to fluctuate??) The fact is, my bust measurement has changed largely because my back has lost fat. It hasn't toned (I don't see how it could have - unless knitting counts as conditioning!). My breasts have not shrunk. They are a smidge smaller in the upper cup perhaps, but not notably.

Turning attention to my hip measurement: At least to date, my body doesn't store fat at the high or low hip. How can I have lost mass here?? Simple: I've lost it in the (captured by the equation) derriere.

The one measurement I take at face value is waist circumference. As a person of Italian and Hispanic heritage who tends to gain in the midsection, when I lose mass here, it means I've lost weight. But never mind that - what it really means is I can fit into more clothing I already own.

The point is that my recalibration exercise has yielded the desired result. I wonder if, in another 2 months, I might be down another inch in each of these spots - cuz then I'll be back into the full range of smaller garments in my closet.

You'll note this transition has not been quick but it has been steady. It has not shocked my body. It has not forced me into the domain of extremism. Were I to guess, I'd say I've lost 6 lbs but, seriously, what do I know? I haven't stepped on a scale in a year. Point is, 6 lbs would signify a loss of only slightly more than half a pound a week - well below the 1.5 - 2 lbs "they" say is healthfully feasible and optimal. And still, it works for me because a) I feel better b) I look better in clothing IMO and c) my aim was to lose inches, not weight.

Some of you mentioned you might do a version of recalibration when last we discussed this. Has that occurred? If yes, how's it going for you?

*I should also add, I could easily record many additional measurements, were I so inclined. Upper leg comes to mind, since it's such a challenging spot for many re: fitting. Upper arm and ribcage measurements are very useful for those who are about to embark on a formal-wear adventure.


  1. You are so so right about measuring tape vs scale. I gained around 10 lbs during our move. This put me at the highest weight I've ever been. Plus, when you are 4'11, 10 lbs is a big deal. I do consult the scale (more often than I should, tbh) as I've got around 40 lbs to lose and I like to see when I've hit my 5 lb mini goals. Being in Europe vs. America is helping with my recalibration. They don't have 5 different fast food chains per block like the States do. I also have easier access to GIANT farmers markets that sell fresh, seasonal produce. Plus we walk everywhere. Oh, and no more soda.

    I've lost an inch in my hips/waist/bust in about a month. I've only worked out a handful of times, so I know that this is a diet based change. The pace is slow, but I remind myself that I didn't put it on in a couple months, so I can't expect to lose it in a couple months.

    I'm glad to hear your recalibration is going well. I read a number of blogs that deal with fitness or weight loss. Many have this kind of hyper-perky-in your-face vibe. Sometimes it's what I need to be motivated. But I really enjoy the way you're going about it. No guilt or drama. Just simple cause and effect. "Here is what I did to gain the weight, and this is what I'm going to do to lose it." Relaxed and confident, I'd say.

    Anyways, wow, longest comment ever. Congrats and take care. :)

  2. I haven't tried your particular recalibration method, but I have started eating better and I've noticed a difference. My measuring tape says I've only lost about 1/2" off my midsection (my major trouble spot), but my scale says I've lost around 15 lbs...which on a 5'2" used-to-be-delicate frame, makes a pretty significant difference. ALL of my pants are falling off of me now--even the ones I've made.

    And yeah, my ass is the first thing to trim down too, which means that I have nothing to hold my pants up!! Since you are the same way, do you have any good ideas of how to deal with hips that are the same size (or smaller!) than the waist?

  3. I started a "recalibration" in late August. So far, I've lost 2.5 inches off my waist-- that's the only measurement I'm taking. I don't own a scale, but I do weigh myself every now and then, mostly out of curiosity; as of a couple of weeks ago, I'd lost 9 pounds.

    I'm loosely (as a pescetarian) following a low-carb diet. I love that I can eat more fats than ever, and still get thinner. And I think the bit of extra protein is really helping to control my appetite.

    I'm going to the gym, mostly just walking on the track. In the coming weeks I plan to start running and doing some simple weight workouts.

    My goal is to lose the excess fat by the end of this year, and to tone up by my birthday next year.

  4. What fab comments so far!

    Andrea: So nice to hear from you. I saw, from your post, that you're not loving Germany - but it doesn't sound so bad in this comment :-) It also seems you've got the makings of a good system. I hear you about weight having a big impact on a small frame.

    CGC: Wouldn't it be helpful to mandate the areas of fat loss?? What you're describing is a challenging scenario. My waist is still about 9 inches smaller than my hips so I don't have the same situation going on. But I'd suggest - while you recalibrate yourself back to a "straight" shape, or one in which the waist is smaller than the hips, that dresses will be your friends. Ones with definition at the waist. As for pants, I'd stick to dark wash jeans (fancy ones, of course) with a boot cut leg. They should fit below the navel, just slightly, and have some lycra so that they suck in where they need to. Don't get the curvy ones. All they do is bump up the hip room.

    Ms. M: That's quite a shape change in 2 months! I'm very pleased with my revised measurements, but 2 inches at this point would be that much more helpful from the perspective of fitting into certain fall-time garments. No worries, I can be patient! :-)

  5. Very interesting!

    I can't bear to look at the scale or take my measurements, but I have taken measurements for the sake of sewing success, and even though I've lost weight, the important measurements that determine how things will fit haven't changed as much as I expected. The bust measurement barely budged. The waist measurement, not much. The weight seems to mostly come off of my butt and legs.

  6. I've not been paying particular attention lately; I intended too, but there has been too much on my mind. So indulged a bit, and I think I need to recalibrate just because I would fee better; My weight remains about the same, give or take 2 pounds. The tape measure has changed though and I am down inches in the hip but up again in the waist, which reconfirms the need for recalibration.

    I am a firm believer that everyone should own a tape measure and use it. A scale is useless in a practical sense in that it tells you nothing about such useful things as what size you might want to buy.

    I am amazed at the number of people who have no idea what their measurements are, even my knitting students. When they ask me what size they should knit and I ask for their bust measurement they look dumfounded. And I had a customer in the store the other day, a rather small to medium-sized woman, who said she wanted to make a sweater in the size 40 and I was surprised. It ends up she wears a French 40 and she assumed an American pattern for a 40 inch bust was the same. She had no idea what her bust measurement was, just that she wore a FR40, which was all I needed to steer her down a size or two.

  7. Susan: Isn't it good information though! It tells you so much about how to move forward. Don't fear the tape measure - it's a source of power!

    M: Crazy story! I cannot believe that someone would go to the kind of time and expense that knitting a sweater entails without checking every measurement 3 times! We know, even when we check, there's room for creeping unknowns. Thank goodness that woman talked with you!