In working on analyzing what I’ve been doing the last year or so, I went back and looked at a lot of the data that I’ve collected. One thing I looked at was my Weight spreadsheet. I created this spreadsheet way back in the 90s! When I started it, I got out all my old saved Weight Watchers books (yes, I saved them) and my old, old graph I had done of my original weight loss when I joined Weight Watchers.
I had done that graph by hand in my Filofax way back when, adding to it each week from when I first joined Weight Watchers in 1988 to mid-1990 when I got to goal. You can see the abrupt end to it. Right after that last weigh-in when I was .2 pounds above my goal weight, I went out of town for a work trip and ate out 3 times a day for 2 weeks and came back more than 2 pages above goal weight. I wasn’t over by that much (maybe 4 or 5 pounds) but I didn’t want to go back and pay. I didn’t go back for year.
When I did go back I mostly saved my books from weigh in. In the 90s, I took all that data and put it in a spreadsheet and added in any other paper I found that had weights on it (like from the doctor’s office). Then, I would periodically weigh at home and started tracking in the spreadsheet. I have posted about that weight loss history before.
So, I looked at this spreadsheet the other day when I was looking at my data. A couple of things weren’t really relevant to the post I was doing then, but were still interesting to me.
Weight Loss Rate
One thing is how clear it is to me how much harder it is for me to lose weight now than it was almost 30 years ago. I went back to Weight Watchers the final time in October, 2013 when I weighed 193.4 (high recorded weight had been 207.4). It took me 21 months to get to my goal. So that was a loss of about half a pound a week on average. I often said during this time that I was slow loser and, in my mind, I was thinking that I always had been. After all, I originally joined Weight Watchers in February, 1988 weighing 167 pounds. I got to my goal of 125 on May 9, 1990. So, it took me over 2 years to lose 42 pounds, working out to about .35 pounds per week. In my memory, I thought of myself as having always been a slow loser.
But, when I looked at the data the other day I realized that really wasn’t true back then. When I first joined Weight Watchers I lost 24 pounds in 4 months averaging 1.33 pounds a week. The problem was that I then became inconsistent about going and bounced up and down for the next 5 months and regained about 10 pounds of what I had lost. I went back weighing 152 pounds and lost 10 pounds in 3 weeks! I got down to 137 and then started bouncing around again. I got back to almost 155 and then went back and lost 25 pounds in about 4 months, averaging 1.3 pounds a week.
If I take out the times that I regained and quit going to meetings for a while (you can see those jagged lines in my graphs above), I actually lost well over a pound most weeks. And, there were times I consistently lost more than that.
That didn’t happen in this weight loss time from October 2013 until I got back to goal. The biggest gain I had was 1 pound (right after Thanksgiving). And, I didn’t have any large periods when I quit going. So, why do I lose so much more slowly now than then? There are 3 possible culprits:
Age and metabolism – I am older than I was then. As you age, you lose muscle mass which means you burn fewer calories. Most calculators to determine metabolic rate ask your age. They use age basically as a proxy to determine your body fat. The Katch McArdle metabolic rate calculator uses your body fat as part of the formula so doesn’t ask for your age. Basically it will give the same results for a 30 year old and a 60 year old if they have the same weight and body fat. This is one reason that strength training as you age is important. You want to try to strength train to preserve as much muscle mass as you can. But, I didn’t do that for many years so I lost muscle mass over the years. And, I am skinny fat now with a high body fat.
But, back then while I wasn’t muscular I think I was probably fairly normal in terms of body fat for my weight so I burned more calories. That said, I don’t think this explains the entire reason I lost more rapidly then. Even if I assume a better body fat percentage than I think I had back then, that doesn’t explain all of my higher weight loss rate back then. I do think it is probably the biggest part of the reason, but can’t be sure since I don’t know my body fat back then.
Food – Maybe I was eating a lot less calories back then than I did when I was losing weight this time around. But, I don’t think so. I averaged between about 1170 and 1200 calories a day while I was losing weight this time. I didn’t track calories back then but I don’t think it was less. Weight Watchers used an exchange program then and you had minimum amounts of certain exchanges to eat and I always ate them. I think it would have been at least 1200 calories a day.
Activity – However, I was more active back then. I think this is a factor. In my mind, I think of myself as always being sedentary since I had a desk job and most of my hobbies (reading, computer) were sedentary. But, looking back, I am definitely more sedentary now than I was then. Now, I live in a 1 story house. I work from home. I spend most of the day at a desk. To even get to 5000 steps in a day I have to set an alarm and literally walk from one end of the house every 30 minutes and keep count of steps to make sure I get enough of them. I do this even if I don’t “need” to do anything in particular. I am walking just for the steps. When I was losing weight this time around I did exercise. I walked on the treadmill or in the neighborhood and for a lot of the time went to the Y for strength training.
Even so, I was more active back when I first got back to goal. I had a desk job then, but I worked in an office so there was walking from the car to the office. I went to the offices of other people. I often left my office and went to meetings. I was single then so had to run all my own errands. And I exercised more. Then, I didn’t have the knee problems I have now. I worked my way up to exercising to fairly intense exercise videos, usually for an hour a day. So, yes, I was more active then than I am now.
I would like to be as active now as I was then. Some of it I can’t do much about. I have a 1 story house (had a 2 story townhouse back then). I work from home. I don’t need to run as many errands. So, I don’t have as much natural daily activity as I did then. As for exercising more, it is hard to say. Early in this blog’s history I really cranked up on exercise. It was great. And, I was burning more calories. But, then I had a trabecular bone injury and had to stop walking at all for months. And, my knee started hurting when for a time I really increased exercise. So, I would like to exercise more but I’m not sure the body will cooperate. (Well, I can exercise much more than I’ve been doing the last 6 months I just don’t think I can go back to what I could do 27 years ago).
Way back when I got to goal the first time, I measured myself fairly often. And, during the years thereafter I occasionally took measurements which I put in the spreadsheet. When I started losing weight in late 2013, I periodically took measurements. I didn’t do it often because, frankly, it was difficult. Post-pregnancy even before I lost a lot of weight I had a lot of loose skin and as I lost weight it just got worse. Eventually I had a panniculus which was the loose skin and fat hanging down from my abdomen:
This made measuring difficult. I never quite knew where to measure for the hips. Instructions always said to measure the widest part. Was that the fullest part of the buttocks (as some instructions said) or the area of greatest protrusion shown above. Those weren’t the same. Or should I measure underneath the panniculus? But, nonetheless, I did measure periodically.
One thing I found out was that my waist and hips were bigger this time around at similar weights than they were back the original time. For example, back in 1988 when I weighed 169 pounds my waist was 33 1/4″. But, in 1997 (post-pregnancy) at 164 my waist was 35 1/4″. And then, in 2014, at 162.2 pounds, my waist was up to 36 3/8″. Of course, those numbers are consistent with my having had a child and my having a higher body fat as I got older.
The last recorded measurements that I have in my spreadsheet were from September, 2015 when I was 147 pounds. I quit measuring after that as I was at goal and I also knew I would be having the tummy tuck and felt I would wait to measure after that.
Anyway, back in September, 2015 weighing 147 pounds at home my waist was 36 1/2″ at the narrowest point and 39″ at the belly button. My hips measured with the panniculus were 42 1/8″ and were 40″ measured under the panniculus. I have a few measures from the 80s around that weight. The waist measurements range from 31 to 31 1’2″ and the hips from 38 5/8′ to 39″. As you can see, 27 years later at the same weight of 147 my waist was 5 to 5 1’2″ bigger and my hips were a little over 3″ bigger (due to the panniculus).
What was interesting to me was to measure myself since surgery and see the difference. I actually hadn’t made the comparison until just the other day. I had measured since surgery but had forgotten I had the September 2015 measurement so hadn’t compared them. At similar weight, post-surgery my waist at the narrowest point is 32″. This is 4 1/2″ smaller than before I had surgery. My belly button measurement is now 35″ which is 4″ smaller than before surgery. And my hips are now 40″ which is what I was before surgery if I measured under the panniculus. I hadn’t actually realized how dramatic the change was in inches before and after:
The above photo is shortly after my liposuction so I still have quite a bit of upper abdominal swelling but you can get an idea of how the waist and hips have changed.
And, one good thing is that I can see that post-surgery my measurements are much closer to what they were at the same weight in 1988. The waist is only 1/2″ to 1″ larger and the hips about 1″ larger. I do know I have more body fat now that I had then. I can see it on other parts of my body like my thighs, but those differences are relatively small.
This is Why I Like Data
This is why I like and keep all this data. I like and find valuable being able to go back and see what my waist was pre-surgery and compare it to where I was back in 1988. It enables me to see progress over time and helps me to analyze the data so I can try to figure out problems and find solutions. I need to actually start taking my measurements again regularly once the swelling is gone from the tummy. I still have wild fluctuations in my waist post-liposuction. It can go from 32″ to 34 1/2″ from morning to evening. Very frustrating. But, measuring it does help me to see that the big number is temporary since it is down 2″ or more the next morning.