Privilege Blog

Putting On Five Pounds In Midlife On Purpose, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:49am

So I’ve just put on five pounds. On purpose.

To be fair, this takes me from a BMI of 20 to one of 21, so I am not making a revolutionary statement. But it seemed my thought process, given our cultural focus on women’s weight, might of be of interest anyway.

As background, I have always been thinnish. When we were kids, at one point, our doctor told my mom she needed to fatten us up. Oh the 1960s. And so it went until a college summer internship in France left me 15 pounds heavier. Thrown into a state of distress and horror, I lost the weight but developed bulemia. The disorder persisted for a few years until one afternoon I thought, “To heck with this, I’m going to eat whatever I want.”

And for the rest of my life, I kept my weight where I wanted it, with some focus and discipline. No diets, no terrible sense of deprivation, just reasonable nutrition, a little physical activity, and helpful genetics.

Until about a year ago. I was 58. The usual tricks and intent stopped working. And then I started getting sick. Early in 2015, a prolonged struggle that turned out to be hormonal in nature. A bad cold in November. And recently the flu.

Finally I decided that my body was in fact trying to tell me something, that as I’ve aged I’ve come to need a cushion, real and metaphoric. Reserves. Five pounds of them, to be precise, and maybe more to follow.

I read so many articles about women trying to fight the pounds of midlife these days that I thought I’d add a different perspective. I made a decision for health. Also seems that some make the same decision for beauty. Iman, for example.

Shared in case it’s useful. And to counteract this, because, seriously?. Have a wonderful weekend.

47 Responses

  1. Weight, like religion, is a personal issue. So, you weigh however much suits you and only you can decide that. As to the Elle article, all I can say is: only in LA. Oh, and maybe (if I’m feeling snarky): get a life!

  2. Yes!
    I’ve just gone in a different direction, whittling off the few pounds that have crept back on over the past two years, and I feel good about that, knowing it’s healthier for me, never having been skinny and being quite short with a family tendency to accumulate at midriff. But I really registered the benefit of some “reserve,” as you call it, when I watched my Dad go from 200 pounds (at 5’6, tops, very muscular, brick s***house-build!) to less than 100 during his final decade with prostate cancer.
    It’s the difficulty of privilege, isn’t it, that we no longer trust the relationship between our bodies and the food provided by a natural environment but need to intellectualise something so basic. . . And I watch my daughters trying to set healthy eating patterns for their children . . . happy to see you setting one more healthy, realistic model out for them. xo

    1. @Frances/Materfamilias, Following one’s own feeling about one’s own body, hard to do in this culture but really, really important. And, as you say, something to try to model for the generations who come after us. You are my inspiration for fitness, by the way, as in inspire me to think you are amazing;).

  3. Your post gives new meaning to that old expression… “watching my weight.” It’s good to watch and tinker no matter what direction you go…up or down. I saw your comment on the FB thread about women over 50 putting on weight around the middle. So tired of the issue of weight gain (or loss i.e. recent headline seen in grocery store line about Angelina Jolie) being public property, so to speak. I watch my weight…because in our family, long skinny legs means that all weight goes straight to our middle. Very unhealthy place to put on pounds. But I still eat what I want and have wine with dinner and… eat bread..gasp. And I exercise daily…which is no sacrifice, trust me, since I use the time to listen to mystery novels on my i-pod. I’m “reading” not exercising…works like a charm for me.

    1. @Sue Burpee, I have to imagine that if weight goes to your middle because you have long skinny legs it must be less harmful than that middle weight that shows up when it should have had lots of other places to go, no? But still, daily exercise, that is just excellent.

  4. You are so fortunate to have good genetics. I’m horrified when I look around me at my own family members who seem to be having an even bigger struggle than I am at maintaining a healthy weight. Like many, I am very tired of the weight issue–and applaud anyone who can go through life relatively unscathed in their body image. I do have friends who suffer from being underweight (according to their doctors) and have to work to keep weight on their bodies. Do I wish for that? It’s hard to say. At the moment, I am trying to be mindful with a weight loss goal in mind. In my case, it would be for health AND for looks.

    1. @Susan D., I think mindful is the best, the most important thing. That’s what led me to realize I needed to gain some weight, being mindful of how I felt.

  5. Good for you, both for netting those pounds and for saying so! What is “the right weight” changes in different ages/life stages. And yes, it’s really important to listen to what our bodies are telling us and also to keep a little wiggle room available in case of incident.

    But that’s probably true in most areas; whether that’s a few pounds of surplus fat in case of a GI bug; some extra slush time in our schedules in case of emergencies or surprises; some extra financial cushion: it generally seems healthier (albeit not in line with many modern tendencies) to not be running on a very thin line (or a bit of a deficit!).

    1. @KC, That’s a very good point. Building in cushions everywhere. Enough running on fumes, which I imagine everyone reading here has done at one point or another.

  6. I fall on the other side of the menopause continuum. What I mean is – I’m not getting thinner at this time of life (and I don’t know where anything’s going to land cuz I’m deep in the midst of it). I will say that I’ve gained a dress size and a half in 3 years (and I’m not doing anything differently – except eating somewhat less than I used to). Of course, if I wanted to get rid of my extra 10 pounds, perhaps I should do more. But I feel so shitty so much of the time that I’m not going to undercut the joys in life any more than they already have been. But man, I’m struggling with my self image right now.

    And I just had a discussion with my hairdresser about that absurd article. Gotta love rich, crazy Californians. They’re so not just like us! :-)

    Somehow I’ve managed to comment in a zillion words and not say what I meant to say to start with: Good on you. You’re listening to yourself and that’s more than most people do. And you are all the more healthy and gorgeous for it.

  7. I say hold firm on your 5. Pounds are like tribbles, cute in the beginning, a nuisance over time.

  8. What works for you might not work for someone else…height factors for example. Extra pounds might give you the edge when needed to fight off the flu and you may feel better. The important thing is to listen to your body.

    The 5 pounds that I am struggling to shed are needed to get my BMI back in the healthy “normal” range. The Weight Watcher goal weight that I set for myself was at the top of the range for my height. Currently I am in the overweight area of the BMI and my mid section is where I pack on the pounds…which has heart and high blood pressure problems associated with it. My GP works on the open heart team and is a big advocate of keeping weigh in check. At almost 61 I feel that healthy lifestyle and moderate food consumption are very important components when it comes to my future.

    The bottom line is to enjoy life…whatever size, shape or weight you are.
    Thank you for sharing your life with us Lisa.

    You continue to be a lovely voice in the blogosphere!

  9. Listening to your own body, and making a decision that is right for you, is always good advice.

    And I guess that means Ms. Bacon(?) has a right to her own path, although I have to admit my first reaction was “What a clever satire!” To each her own.

    1. @Diane, What I’m trying to say is: I hope you ate some tasty food while gaining those pounds.

      I hope you enjoyed every ounce!

  10. Does anyone else find it amusing that the woman in the Elle article has a last name of Bacon? Akin to a character from a Dickens novel!

  11. As almost all commentators before have said: listening to your body is the key. It opens a lot of questions: the quality of food available(whole,unprocessed etc),a bit of discipline and to have well balanced self with balanced self image to listen to
    I’m sure you have all of those factors and am happy that you made very good decision,if you are happier,healthier and more active. And you did a great thing opening Pandora’s box and weight discussion,showing that there are many paths,not only the one(folowing many Ms Bacons…..:-)) to become thinner and thinner
    One’s weight is a personal issue,as Mary anne said,but a lot of people lost a compass,this way or another.
    I was the lucky one,always on the thinnish side of spectrum,without thinking about what I do or eat (and a lot of my friends were the same)-from time to time I had to gain a couple of pounds, after exams or some other tiring periods of life.
    I was on macrobiotics for a couple of years because of health issue,it helped me also (among other things) to bring back all single tastes of food.
    And than,couple of years ago I had a thyroid problem and gained a lot of weight. I am still in the healthy BMI range but have to be very conscious about my meals. And slowly trying to go,not exactly back because with years you have to have a pound or two more- but to be able to move more easily

  12. I think listening to your body is key, but there is also statistical evidence that, as we age, a few surplus pounds can act as a cushion. A few, and I’m sure that varies a lot depending on individual body dynamics.

    Most of my young adulthood, through my 30s I maintained a bmi of 19, in fact I probably ate to excess, because my struggle was actually keeping my weight that high. But in my late 30s and then 40s I learned that I had a congenital heart defect, which was repaired, and celiac disease, which is a malabsorption syndrome. My body settled into a happy state at a bmi of 23. Until my spouse got sick. My weight gain was completely my fault due to stress and unhealthy coping mechanisms, and probably still weaning myself off a love of bread, because the gluten-free options did not feed the craving, only the frustration. The fact that I had never had to develop control fueled the fire of weight gain. I lost over 20 pounds 2 years ago, and have kept it off. I’m still in the lower end of the overweight range, but my body has been telling me it is time to let go of more of that weight, that it is holding me back, and hurting my health, and I need to move more. I also accept that we humans (or I at least) sometimes need to ease into things gradually. My goal is to be able to be strong and healthy, wherever that takes me weight wise, and there have been times when I have struggled with the idea that when I was thin, deemed “healthy” by societal standards, I was probably, in fact unhealthy, although I didn’t know it at the time. So far I am losing body fat percentage and shrinking but the weight is exactly the same, and I don’t have more energy yet, but I see a definite improvement in stamina and ease of movement.

    Most of all it is just each of us needing to turn off our filters occasionally and listen to what our bodies are actually telling us. And I applaud that effort.

    1. @Mardel, You sound very much in touch with your physical self now. If stamina and ease of movement are better, energy should follow. A heart defect and celiac disease, those are not little things, I hope you feel so much better with them addressed.

  13. What an interesting post, and it’s made me think about something. In 2013 and 2014, I was about 7-8 lbs less in weight than now (which I liked) but both years colds turned into pneumonia. This year, although I’ve had a number of colds from grandkids, none have gone to my chest and I’ve recovered pretty quickly, in spite of some other big stressors , like my mom’s death. I’m wondering if the extra weight is a cushion? Nevertheless, trying to lose it…so we’ll see.

    1. @Kathy,
      Kathy, Ike you I have had been sidelined with pneumonia and on numerous occasions 4 times …they took several rounds of antibiotics to eradicate and complete bed rest! in the past two years after my weight loss I have only had one wee cold, last week which lasted about 4 days. I attribute better health to my retirement and not being exposed to the germ pool at school, more rest, daily walks, less stress and healthy fruits and vegetables with far less sweets.
      Whatever you are doing to keep healthy if it is working keep it up!

    2. @Kathy, See how it goes, right? Part of the reason I decided to put on this weight was that it got so much harder to take it off. I could, still, but only with all kinds of self-denial and it just didn’t feel right. I suspect your body will tell what it needs.

  14. I’d love to have the body I had when I was 40…Seriously! I ran 4 miles about 4-5 times per week, lifted weights every other day, and took a step-aerobics class twice a week at night. I was in the best shape of my life. Like you, I was a twig when I was young….”Do you feed her?” But after college and the discovery of beer, weight when on a bit easier. Add three kids to the mix, and well….Until I started my serious weight loss and fitness program at age 40. I was obsessed with it!

    Then, multiple surgeries for all kinds of crummy stuff, among them a torn Achilles’ tendon and a broken back. I’m not in shape, I have [quite] a few pounds I’d like to lose, but I finally FEEL good, and that counts for a lot when you’ve known illness and injury. The work-out life I had before is never going to happen. I’m a different person, and I’m truly ok with that.

    Enjoy those 5 pounds!

  15. Sorry, but it’s hard to hear about the five pounds you put on on purpose. Since age 45 I’ve put on 40 lbs while exercising like a fiend and eating “right.” Obviously i experienced a huge change in metabolism. Right now my challenge is to eat a healthy diet and develop some acceptance of my changed body.

    1. @maggie, I thought, before posting, would this be encouraging, as in take that 40 lb down to 35, or would it be hard to hear. I was hoping for encouraging. My apologies. That must be so frustrating for you.

  16. such a thought provoking post! i love it!
    I’m just a few lbs to my ideal weight now at 51 since we got rid of the car a year ago. the 10,000 steps thing really works. I exercised dailyfor years – yoga , pilates- but it was the walking that really took the extra 5 lbs off.
    but I was thinking about a “cushion” of weight recently when i saw a dermatologist & he recommended a filler.
    well, i know this is a hot topic but i would love to know what you think lisa, although i think i can guess.
    thanks for your blog. i love reading it & it’s strange to me there aren’t more blogs by middle aged women facing these issues.

    1. @y.k., You are very welcome, and thank you for reading and chiming in. I can’t bear the thought of filler on me, having something injected into my body that stays around and is possibly lumpy gives me the total heebie jeebies. Do I think nobody should ever do it? No, I don’t feel that strongly against the idea, but, I’d be very curious as to what tipped anyone over the camp into Yes to fillers.

  17. In reference to the Elle magazine article: Oh, for god’s sake. I’m a native Californian and I never ate that crappola. Mmmm! Brain Dust!

  18. I’d just like to say that I do everything that other chick with the moon juice does, except I grate my radish and mandarin salad while I’m on the phone in my Mercedes, having a conference call with the IMF and just after my super top up of Kryptonite before I call Hillary and we review her day’s campaign tactics, right before I call Banki Moon to tell him how good his juice really is. Then I sit down with a bag of plain salted chips, a glass of sauvignon blanc and watch re-runs of MASH. Well it’s exhausting being perfect, so I need to go get a chi greentea with some more bee pollen. Followed by a vodka chaser. FGS.

  19. Why do I not come up with these ideas?????? Ugh!

    This bit of creative chicanery “super endocrine, brain, immunity, and libido- boosting powers of Brain Dust, cordyceps, reishi, maca, and Shilajit resin. I throw ho shou wu and pearl in as part of my beauty regime. I chase it with three quinton shots for mineralization and two lipospheric vitamin B-complex packets for energy.” is netting her a FORTUNE.

    I can make up wayyyyyy better names, too!

  20. Does she ever drink any water (I know there would be some in things she drinks, but on its own)? I could not go through my day without multiple glasses of water.

    I’m at that age where putting on weight is much easier than taking it off, but I don’t subscribe to dieting, as banning any food / type ensures I will crave and binge. That said, any adjustment (up or down) to our weight that we wish to have permanency takes some effort, and we can only work with what we have been given. Letting go of society’s expectations allows us to hear our body talking quietly about what it needs.

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