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What I’ve Learned About My “Healthy” Weight

March 22, 2018

In August 2015, my scale said I weighed 153 pounds.


At 6 feet tall, that put my BMI at 20.7 -- smack dab in the middle of the "healthy" range. 


Except I wasn't getting my period. I hadn't had one since early February, when I came off birth control pills. 


2015 was a big year for me. We finished our Army Captain's Career Course, got married, earned Master's degrees, honeymooned in Europe, moved to Tennessee, and started new jobs in the 101st Airborne Division. I PR'ed my second-ever half marathon (1:38) without doing much focused training. I could beat my husband in 2 of 3 events on our physical fitness test. I was stronger, faster, and leaner than I had ever been. And yes, I was a little too proud of what my scale told me. After all, I was about to get married! I had to look good in my dress!


But on the flip side, I desperately wanted to start a family. And I while I knew my weight may be an issue, I wasn’t 100% willing to accept that. I went to several doctors between February and August that year. Most of them said they weren’t too worried. They told me that technically, they weren’t supposed to do a referral to OB/GYN until we’d been “trying” for a year, and that my weight was perfectly normal & healthy for my height. So, I didn’t try to gain any weight.


In September, we moved to Tennessee. I spent the next four weeks doing field training and another 4 working 14+ hour days with our new unit, preparing for a deployment. I had less free time, and my workouts decreased in duration, intensity, and total volume. I stress ate. I gained weight...not at a crazy rate, but I knew I was gaining.


Then on Thanksgiving Day 2015, I got my period. I was basically the happiest menstruating lady on the planet. On MLK weekend 2016, I got a positive pregnancy test. When I stepped on the scale that Friday morning, it flashed 168 pounds. I gained almost 15 pounds...BEFORE getting pregnant. Gulp.


But the reality was that my body NEEDED those pounds. A relatively inactive 6-foot-female might be able to carry 153 pounds, look good, and still have a period. Me? Not so much. Healthy weight ranges are based on an AVERAGE person, and we don’t all fit that mold.


I actually didn't gain a ton of weight during my pregnancy. Chalk it up to a number of things: good genes, a good diet, consistent exercise, the hottest summer on record in Middle Tennessee...whatever. My relatively sporadic FitBit data shoes that I recorded a weight of 187.6 (up 18) pounds at about 37 weeks, and I think I ended up being +22-25 pounds by the time she was born. 


But stop -- because really, I had already gained 15. So, really, I gained a total of 40 pounds while pregnant with Grace.


I lost a lot of it...but not all of it. I was actually very, very happy with how I felt physically, mentally, and emotionally (at least after the initial shock of "Oh my gosh, this isn't my body!" wore off). I was really okay with my post-baby body. I focused on getting my fitness back, and periodically checked my weight. 


In April, 2017, at 7 months postpartum, I went to get a body fat test done in a bod pod at a new facility on post. It was mostly out of curiosity. I wanted a baseline, especially knowing that my previously “healthy” weight was not healthy for me.


I was 6 feet, 0 inches. 163 pounds. My BMI, 22.1, wasn't terrible but compared to 2015, it was trending toward overweight. 


My actual body fat? 14.3%.


If you're curious: a "normal" BMI is about 18.5 to 24.9. 

"Normal" body fat for an 18-30 year old woman is somewhere between 19% and 25%.

"Normal" body fat for an elite female athlete is somewhere between 15% and 19%.


By BMI, my weight was very healthy but trending upward toward the “Obese” zone. But my body fat in the "dangerously low zone." 


Despite being healthy for an average woman, 163 pounds was too low for me.


A certain weight does not = health. A “healthy” weight does not = optimal body function for everyone.


At both 163 and 153 pounds, my body LOOKED healthy. By the most accessible health statistics -- height, weight, and BMI -- it read healthy. Heck, for my height, I could be a LOW AS 137 POUNDS and still have a "healthy" BMI.


But if my body fat was below 15% at 163 pounds, can you imagine how low it might have been when I was at 153? Or if I had dropped below that, into the 130's and 140's?


EVERY BODY IS DIFFERENT. Even if you're the same height/body type as someone else, your healthy body will look different. The LAST thing you should worry about is how your scale compares to your neighbor's.


Right now, I'm up about 20 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight with 10 weeks to go. I'm going to gain a lot more weight this pregnancy than I did with Grace. I'm likely going to be the heaviest I've ever been in my life by the time this baby comes in May. Does it kind of suck to think about? Yes. Do I let myself worry about it more than I probably should? Also yes.


Guess what else? I'm still running 20 miles per week at 30 weeks pregnant. My body wasn't strong enough to handle that mileage last time. I’m continuing to lift (relatively) heavy weights. I'm parenting a toddler, sleeping less, recovering less. My body didn't have to handle that last time. I'm eating based on hunger cues, and enjoy indulging in my cravings. I’m not overeating or binge eating, which I used to do when I was “watching my weight.”


Trust me, there are still days where it's challenging or disheartening to look at the scale. But now, I also get to look at my daughter, and feel her brother-to-be squirm inside of me. I'd pick them over weighing 153 pounds any day. 


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