My last entry got me thinking about the following questions. What is my genetic legacy as far as weight–what does happen to people in my family as they get older? Can I figure out what my “natural weight” might be? And what does this mean to me? (I mean, the real answer is “I don’t know,” but apparently that’s not going to stop me from speculating about it.)

So here goes:

My mom. Just yesterday, in fact, I was reminded again that my mother is fairly active (walking on at least a semi-regular basis and doing a lot of housework and such now that she is retired from her desk job) and really doesn’t eat much at all, yet is still what most people would consider fat. My mom was adopted by my grandma’s second husband, and I don’t see her biological dad much, but I remember him being a fairly large, robust guy. Before my grandma got lung cancer, I think she was always pretty average-sized, but I don’t really remember. From my limited data set, I’d say my mom’s side of the family tends to stay around the same size as they age, and based just on my mom I would say that is accompanied by a tendency to eat less but with a corresponding increase in how difficult it is to lose weight. Or perhaps that’s caused by yo-yo dieting; my mom, like me, has lost and regained weight several times in my memory.

My dad. My dad has gotten thinner since his younger days, but I can’t tell how much of that is just a natural part of his aging process and how much is a product either of current attempts on his part to keep his weight down, or the fact that he and my mom consider a Lean Cuisine or a can of soup to be an adequate dinner these days (which makes some sense; not only do they, like most people, have a lifetime of dieting/calorie restriction under their belts, but they’re in their 60s, which seems to be when a lot of people start eating less anyway). From what I recall, my grandpa had a similar shape to my dad, whereas my grandma was always petite and seemed to become even thinner and smaller as she got older (she also had diabetes, which may have affected this in some way). So it wouldn’t be out of the question that my dad’s side of the family would tend to get thinner as they got older for whatever reason.

But I guess this is not so informative, at least for me at 31, since I am observing my parents as older adults and I don’t really want to get into this subject with them to find out more. (By contrast, my formerly-underweight husband put on 30-40 pounds between about age 25 and his current age without changing his eating habits, exactly as I’ve heard his dad say happened to him, so that pattern was a little easier to understand.) Anyway, maybe later in life these observations will help me make sense of whatever changes might occur in my body. But I also wanted to look back at my own life and try to figure out what my current weight might be if I had never dieted or developed disordered eating habits.

It seems to me that my highest weight, which recently occurred during one of the most miserable periods of my life (not to mention a period where I was coming off a diet) and was accompanied by extreme stress, a job I hated and which made me hate myself, and regular excursions of stuffing myself, is probably not normal for me. I’m currently on a diet; you can’t really tell much from that. So what is my “natural weight”?

When I was going into my junior year in high school, we moved away from the town I had always lived in, and this transition was pretty hard on me. At some point years prior, I had learned to deal with stress by overeating, and I continued to do so. When the move was complete, I weighed myself and found that I had reached my highest weight yet–206 lbs.–and was having to buy plus-size clothes for the first time. This “shocking” number propelled me into a fairly strict diet and I lost down to 169 lbs., as I mentioned previously. Other transitions–attempts at both intuitive eating and twelve-step Overeaters Anonymous-style programs, college, marriage, another move, more diets, etc.–have since made my weight history so chaotic and transitory that I don’t really think it provides me with much useful information.

So, looking back on my life, I think the last time my weight was relatively stable was around my sophomore year in high school. I remember wearing Gap and Levi’s jeans in around a size 14 at that time, and shirts or knit pants in a size large. I still don’t know how “representative” this is, because even then I can remember (for example) alternating between lunches of either a sandwich of diet American cheese on diet bread with some carrots on the side, or a blue slushie and giant chocolate chip cookie from the “junk food line” in the cafeteria. (My weight stayed about the same either way from what I remember.) So my eating was not exactly sane and stable then either, which is kind of sad to realize. But it’s the closest thing I have to a baseline, I think.

Taking possible vanity sizing since that time into account, along with the fact that I have a lot more muscle mass now, I would guess that I wear a similar size now and that therefore my current weight is close to or a little below what was originally my “natural weight.” Of course who knows what has happened to my body’s “original natural weight”; I’ve dieted so many times since then that the current number may have little bearing on the “original” number. But there is sort of a neat symmetry and logic to the idea that I was a naturally chubby kid (I wasn’t all that fat, though I always felt gargantuan, and felt set apart as the “fat kid” from day one) and now perhaps I am a naturally chubby adult.

If this is true, I am a lucky person indeed, because so many folks have gone through a similar odyssey except for the significant detail that their “natural weight” is much higher and therefore much less “acceptable” in society than mine. I can “pass” as acceptably thin, especially now that I care a little less about what people think of me.

I think this is pretty much a genetic crapshoot, and furthermore I believe that most people have a natural weight range that may be high or low, and if there can or should be any such thing as a “goal weight,” it would most logically be geared toward that natural range instead of external guidelines like the BMI. There are a few concepts out there that seem self-evident to me and this is one of them–people’s natural weight ranges are going to vary all over the map. The idea that every single person of a given height should attempt to shoehorn themselves into some 20-lb. range on the BMI scale, apart from showing a very bad grasp of statistics–and I am bad at statistics myself, despite having taken one undergraduate and two graduate level stats courses, so if a stats dunce like me thinks your understanding of stats is poor then you should probably feel bad–just pure and simple makes no sense to me.

(I also wanted to note here that I really don’t think a person “should” have this goal of reaching their “natural weight range.” So many of us have dieted for so long that we have little hope of even unraveling what that range is, much less reaching it now that our metabolisms have probably changed over the years. Others of us have difficulty accessing or affording food traditionally considered “healthy” and I have no interest whatsoever in shaking a finger at people who are doing their best to feed themselves and their kids based on what they can afford and what they have time to prepare. Not to mention, I have no interest in attaching “shoulds” or moral significance to what anyone does with regard to their weight, diet, or health regardless. It’s mainly just an exercise of academic and personal interest to me, to try to go back and forensically figure out what size I would have been had I never gone on a diet. Though if you have noted that perhaps there is a whiff here of me attempting to convince myself that my WW-induced weight is my natural one just because I feel thin and pretty and socially acceptable right now, you may very well be right, unfortunately.)

Anyway, talking of goals and setpoints and such, I guess it comes as no surprise that I am getting (or maybe always have been) near a tipping point of being totally disillusioned with Weight Watchers, and maybe it is a good time to take a hard look at why I am doing this and whether I’m getting anything out of it anymore.

I have never felt that good about the organization (or about any diet program for that matter), but over the past 20 months I have lost weight fairly easily on their program or my version of it, and god knows it is easier in this world to be thin than fat, so I pushed my ethical qualms back and kept going with it. However, the irritating postcard I received from my leader yesterday did not help matters. Basically she said “the party’s over” (meaning the “party” celebrating the fact that I lost 100 lbs.)  and that now it was time for me to start “taking care of [myself],” and she posed the questions of whether 100 pounds is enough, and whether I really want to reach my goal. This postcard appears to refer to the fact that I have shown a gain two of the past three weeks.

You know what, those are good questions, although maybe not for the “tough-love” reasons she was thinking.

The goal weight entered at the top of my membership card was not entered by me; someone wrote it down somewhere along the line. So it is not MY goal and honestly, no, I can’t say as I am all that interested in reaching it. My best guess would be that I was 12 or 13 the last time I weighed this amount. And to be totally blunt, although this “goal” is within the “normal” BMI range for my height, I bet anyone a lot of money that I could post a picture of myself at that weight on this blog and even any “you go girl” comments from the diet crowd would be from people who were secretly thinking “she could stand to lose a few more.” (In that link, note comment by “Rich” that “She needs to loose [sic] some of her thighs”–oh, OK, Mr. Sexiness Authority Whose Business This Totally Is, I’ll get right on that so-not-impossible task. My point is, I’ll never win with the kind of people who give a shit whether I am “at goal”–there will always be something for the boys to criticize–and I have already won, regardless of my weight, with the kind of people, namely my loved ones and other fatosphere folks, whose opinions I actually value.)

I’m not going to be thin by our culture’s standards–let’s be honest, this would probably equal size 4 or smaller–in this lifetime, unless, god forbid, I develop a terrible illness. I also absolutely believe that the difference in my “health” between my current weight and this “goal” weight would be nonexistent. So, if I’m not going to mollify the patriarchy by looking cute and tiny, and I’m not going to make myself live forever, why would I want to reach “goal”?

So, as far as I’m concerned, I have made a decision: I am at “goal” insofar as that concept has any meaning for me. It’s time to shift to HAES and to understand that if and when I gain weight by so doing, I will still be at “goal.” This might take me a while to actually put into practice, but I need to try.