Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Magic Number

Some numbers are just too low.

Courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum Collection
via Flickr Creative Commons
I have a magic number. It's seared into my psyche, both beckoning and mocking me. The number is: 159.

When my first daughter was conceived, I weighed 159 pounds. It was a tall-ish and lean-ish 159 - I was a very committed cardio bunny and did light weight work, so I could wear size 8 pants and size 4/6 tops.

I'll bet big bucks that most moms out there can name their prepregnancy weights, too.

It's just a number, it's just a number, I tell myself. And yet...that 159 whispers to me. Almost every time I get on the scale, I calculate how much I'd have yet to lose to hit that number. This is absurd, because according to my body fat skin caliper tests I've gained somewhere around 15-20 lb. of muscle since I started Crossfitting last September. I'm the strongest I've ever been -- way stronger than those cardio bunny days. One of my last tests had me at 135 lb. of lean mass. If I whittled only fat down until I was 159 lb., while retaining that 135 lb. of lean mass, I'd be at 15% body fat, which is way, way, way leaner and more muscular than I was in the 159 lb. prepregnancy days.

All this to say, even though I should be reveling every day in my new strengths, my new wisdom, my new experiences, I have that magic number from the past haunting me. I have difficulty permitting the context of my current, very different state in life - avid Crossfitting, lean-mass-promoting diet, post-baby and lactation hormones, caregiving to small children, limited sleep - to soften the siren call of that old weight.

The closer I get back to 159, the more I realize that I might be riding an asymptote, and that my returns invested in training and eating right diminish, to the point where - unless I allow my hard-earned lean mass to drop - I may never see that number on the scale again.

Do you have a magic number in your head? Are you haunted by your prepregnancy weight, your high school weight, your college weight, or even another number like a former pants size or a long-ago-achieved personal lifting record? How do you deal with the magic numbers in your life? Do you believe firmly that you'll get back to them, or that life has changed enough that you've decided to allow yourself grace even while you pursue personal excellence?



  1. My magic number is 198. It is what I weighed when I met my husband and the lowest I weighed since 8th grade. And that low weight came after months of not being able to eat due to a massive illness - one that had me eating almost nothing every day. I have been severly overweight my whole life, but I believe that 198 is still a good weight for me. I looked good, still had, I was still pretty strong... it is the goal number in my head when I think about being lean and fit.

  2. My magic number has changed a few times. When I started eating Primal/Paleo, I was around 135, which is by no means a dangerous weight at 5'6", but I was accustomed to being under 120 from high school through college. I got back to 120 and about the same leanness as I was back then, though I think I have some more lean muscle mass now. My goals for the rest of the year are entirely based on fitness so I expect my weight will change (pretty happily settled around 123 right now) and I'm actually looking forward to it. If I kept my level of fat around where it is now and got back up 135 from muscle growth, that would be pretty badass!

  3. I'm sitting (literally!) at 147. And my magic number is 135. So I'm close. Ish. Currently on week two of a low carb diet that's going to end up being a lifestyle, I think, since my Native American husband can't so carbs, not even brown rice, without weight gain. We're also about to start P90X, so we'll see what that does to the (not pretty much nonexistent) muscle mass.

  4. I had a magic number most of my adult life. Once I became pregnant, for the first time in many years, I felt free! Like the weight of this magic number had been lifted and I experienced what life was like without worrying about my size. I felt like a kid again. It was ok to gain a little weight, all that mattered to me was my overall health and the health of my baby. It has been a year since my baby was born and I've keep that feeling going. Numbers don't matter so much. Don't get me wrong, I still weigh myself but I don't obsess. Good health doesn't have a magic number for me.

  5. Maybe it's because as I age, my memory isn't as good, but I really don't remember most of those old numbers. And maybe because I'm older, I don't expect to weigh what I did when I got married ever again. But I still manage to obsess! I've broken it down into smaller goals: not to be an XL, to get my BMI in the normal range, to wear size 10 pants. I try not to put too much emphasis on the weight number- I just wish clothing manufacturers would get more consistent with sizing. I wish I could quantify how much better I feel- that would be a number that would make others want to try Paleo.


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