I am having trouble with my new "overweight" status
July 26, 2014 6:57 AM   Subscribe

For the first time, in my early 40's, I'm overweight and ashamed and embarrassed and can't get back on track.

I am an early-40's female. Until recently, I've always been thin, due to caloric restriction and exercise. I was a marathoner and have always exercised since adolescence.

Two years ago, my short (4 year), abusive marriage ended and I subsequently quit my job, met a great guy, and completely upended my life, for the better. I now work for myself and am with my soulmate. This is fabulous! However, the upheaval of a marriage and career blowing up at the same time really got me off-kilter health-wise. I'm at LEAST 20 lbs over my regular weight and I'm not exercising. I'm 5'4" and my regular weight is 110 or below. I cannot fit into any of my clothes, including the professional wardrobe I've built over the years. I've become asocial and agoraphobic because I feel like people are judging me and grossed out by me when I'm in public, and I certainly don't want to see any friends looking like this.

I'm in therapy for PTSD, and it has been really helpful in so many ways. I thought I'd supplement that therapy by asking MeFites for help, too - I find so much comfort from hearing others' experiences on this site and surely someone has felt the way I do? Maybe? I'm so ashamed to exist like this. My body horrifies me.

My direct questions below, but feel free to add any insight not directly addressed by the questions:

1. Before I turned 40, I could lose weight like that *snap*. Today, I have gone on a ten-day fast and lost nothing. Does anyone have advice for weight loss for 40-plus females?

2. How can I get my running mojo back? I can't stand feeling my belly flopping to the point that I stop running. I've never before had a belly.

Details: never been pregnant. Mostly low-carb diet. Too much alcohol. Supportive partner. Taking Effexor for depression. Have a Fitbit. Belong to Planet Fitness. Totally flexible schedule.

My live-in partner loves me like I am, so the driver is me alone in this nightmare. Historically, my father has always been super critical of fat females and is horrified by me now. He's embarrassed and ashamed, but I see him maybe once every two months.

Ah, another thing - all of my friends are runners so I see their skinny photos on FB and want to die.

Any ideas to get me back on track? One of the greatest things about marathon training for me was the sense of well-being and accomplishment - "I ran 16 mi today," as well as keeping weight in check.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (42 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Please please please please be nicer to yourself.

This is not a nightmare. You are not disgusting.

You have abusive voices camping out in your head. Right now you're listening to them. Part of your healing process should be working on changing your inner narrative to one much more compassionate and supportive.

You are doing so wonderful! Twenty pounds -- hell, two-hundred pounds -- doesn't change one bit of that. You are a strong, wonderful, awesome, loved, loving, accomplished person. Focus on every good thing you are and can do right now. You've spent quite enough time thinking and being told that you don't measure up.
posted by jaguar at 7:08 AM on July 26, 2014 [48 favorites]

Have you been talking with your therapist about your feelings of disgust and shame about your body? Do that. Your "too much alcohol" comment tripped a flag for me, as well.

Our bodies change as we get older; our metabolisms behave differently. What used to work for you for keeping weight off may not be as effective anymore (and being so ashamed of your body that you don't even exercise any more is counterproductive, you know? Both in terms of your physical and mental health.)

Find a way to evict your father from your head. You might only be in his presence once every couple of months, but if he's still "with" you like this anyway, that's no good.
posted by rtha at 7:16 AM on July 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

Honey, this is not normal. I'm your weight and a few inches shorter than you and I'm a gorgeous, sexy babe with a glorious body that I love. Also, I'm not technically overweight, and I don't think you are either. Not that it matters.

I wish I could hug you a billion times. This sounds so hard. You're being so hard on yourself.

I would suggest the writings of The Fat Nutritionist. She approaches the Health at Any Size movement not just with feel-good body acceptance, but with a legit nutrition degree. For example, here is an article about how to work through an Body Image Crisis like the one you're going through. There is much, much more in her archives.

A way I shut down negative thinking when I'm mentally ripping myself apart and I hate myself way too much to do some chirpy "I am beautiful" self affirmation is a little speech like this:

You are a smart, talented person with a ton of things to offer the world, and you are wasting your time with these thoughts. Every minute you sit here crying is a minute you could be planning a fundraiser or a bike race or writing an article people will love. Being cruel to yourself doesn't burn calories, and torturing yourself doesn't do anything but waste time.

Somehow, the "this is pointless" argument gets through better to me than the "you don't deserve this" one, because at those moments I feel like I do deserve it. But I don't, and neither do you.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:17 AM on July 26, 2014 [35 favorites]

My heart is breaking a little bit for you, anonymous, that you are so hard on yourself this way.

First thing, your father can fuck right off. Anyone who is horrified by their child being twenty pounds heavier than in the past can just STFU.

I don't know how much help we can be here, this is really something to address in therapy. Too much alcohol is not great for weight loss plus a whole lot of other things.
posted by ambrosia at 7:18 AM on July 26, 2014 [10 favorites]

130 pounds at 5'4" (i.e., 110 plus 20 pounds) is by no means flabby or disgusting or gross. It's not even overweight, really: that BMI is well within the normal range.

More broadly...

I don't have suggestions about weight loss and exercise, because it's something I sometimes struggle with myself.

However, I do want to gently suggest that perhaps you're focusing on the wrong thing. If your attention is on your weight and trying to lose weight, you're tying your happiness to your weight. Even if you succeed in losing it, this is not a good long-term strategy for being happy; it is so fragile and dependent on circumstances. And, odds are, you may not succeed in losing it: weight once put on is hard to get off, you certainly don't seem to be carrying too much for your size, and most people as they age naturally get a bit heavier. So tying your happiness to staying 110 pounds or thereabouts for the rest of your life seems to me a recipe for being unhappy.

What I'd suggest you do instead is explore, with and without your therapist, how you're thinking about your weight to yourself. Your goal should be to be able to face your body -- whatever it is shaped like -- without thinking words like "horrified" and "ashamed" and "gross", and to be happy regardless. I bet if you can get to this point you'll naturally eat a little better and exercise a little more, because exercise itself won't be so aversive (feeling your belly flap, etc), and your weight may go down a bit. But regardless, it will be a much happier way to live and better for you in the long run.
posted by forza at 7:19 AM on July 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

You are not your weight. You don't owe anyone a particular appearance. Your father is a critical, controlling asshole. He has no agency over your body and he doesn't get a vote. Your partner loves you as is. He'd love you if you lost an arm in an accident or if your hair fell out. Because he loves YOU. Not your body.

Extreme controlled/restricted eating is disordered. You know that. As is rigorous, exercise for the sake of burning calories. Thin isn't always healthy, overweight isn't unhealthy or unattractive. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, health is health.

I'm urging you to see a therapist who specializes in eating disorders to discuss this with. No matter what you weigh or how you look, it shouldn't color your life or alter your self-esteem.

As we age the medications we take, our metabolisms and changing hormones change the way our bodies function and some of us either gain weight or find that losing weight is more of a challenge. I encourage you to eat a healthy diet, and to exercise, I do NOT encourage you to marathon run to stay thin.

I visited my doctor this week, and being an overweight person I'm always concerned about my health. She told me, "you eat a healthy diet, you exercise, you're VERY healthy, so don't worry about it."

Your goal should be health, not being thin. Please get therapy. A diet won't fix what's wrong.

You deserve to be happy, no matter what you weigh.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:19 AM on July 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

130 lbs at 5' 4" is a very healthy weight, not fat at all but also not anorexic. This is great. I think the problem is the misguided voices that have given you this definition of fat. This is the forst time on askme that I'm saying: therapy
posted by cacao at 7:19 AM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't mean to step on what is obviously your own comfort zone with regards to a healthy weight, but according to this chart (admittedly the first one I found, and we all know that BMI alone isn't a perfect indicator by a long shot) you were skimming "underweight" at 110 and are well within a "normal" range at what I assume is 130. It surely feels very, very different for you, and I know how weird that can be.

But first and foremost you need to make sure that whatever you weigh is secondary to signs that you are HEALTHY, period. You say you've engaged in caloric restriction and that your father has been very critical. Be super careful about how you proceed here. Those factors plus an abusive situation could lead anyone to seek control in other ways. I don't know you, but I am concerned that you could get stuck in a disordered eating or exercising situation while attempting to find your new normal.

It sounds like you have some great things happening in your life that help you have a more positive frame of mind. That's AWESOME. Part of PTSD and other recovery from abuse is feeling like things could collapse at any minute. You need to work with your therapist and partner and others you trust to find that new normal that helps you live with what you have, not with what you could or should have.

This is all not to say that you shouldn't get back into running. If it's important to your wellbeing, I hope you can find motivations that work for you! I just hope that you will find comfort in yourself and not in others' perceptions -- or what you imagine those perceptions might be.

You've done so many good things. Best, best of luck as you keep going.
posted by Madamina at 7:20 AM on July 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Twenty, thirty pounds overweight? Can I assure you that the majority of the population is not judging you.

If you want to lose the weight cut back on the alcohol and stop the fasting would be my advice. And start exercising of course.

I belong to a running group. Some of the runners are obese, some are super slim, the majority probably fall into the overweight category. You might want to join a Galloway group or other noncompetitive running group. There is a lot of acceptance when you're running with adults who are in noncompetitive running groups. You're with a bunch of Average Joes and it is so much fun. You can talk and make friends and the time goes by quickly. There is never any body shaming, diet talk, or guilt over what we ate last night. At least not in the group I run with.

Take it slowly. Your partner loves you the way you are. Your dad's hangups are his problem. I think the worst thing you can do is to starve or fast --- you'll gain more weight when you start eating again.

Take the sensible approach and cut back on the booze so you'll feel like exercising and cut out the snacking and eating out if you do that. When I eat three meals a day, no seconds, and nothing in between, the weight comes off.

Take it one day at a time and do something every day that supports your goal (exercise, stay within a normal calorie range, get enough sleep, say no to dessert, cut back on the alcohol, etc.) Be kind to yourself. Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 7:21 AM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

What everyone else said, plus unless I'm misunderstanding you're saying both "the driver is me alone" and "my father has always been super critical of fat females and is horrified by me now. He's embarrassed and ashamed" which would appear to be contradictory.

It might help to talk to your therapist about your father's attitudes: if revulsion towards your body or a problematic relationship with food were ingrained in you as a child, there could be all kinds of secondary effects only surfacing now that contribute to all of the issues you've mentioned.
posted by XMLicious at 7:25 AM on July 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Jaguar is right-- there's a lot negative self-talk in your question. I think it's odd that your father's approval is tied to your weight. I would think he'd be proud of you for getting out of an abusive relationship and getting your life back on track. You have done some difficult and amazing things. Weighing more than you used to is trivial compared to that. Do you have a therapist? If so, that would be a great topic to discuss. If not, I would suggest finding someone who specializes in eating disorders. They can help you to be happier about your body. You may lose weight, or you might not, but the ultimate goal would be to love yourself.
posted by tuesdayschild at 7:25 AM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

So I'm an inch taller than you and I outweigh you by about thirty pounds, from the sound of it. I think my lowest adult weight is... about what you weigh right now? And I had friends telling me I was getting too thin.

But the main difference between you and me is I basically don't hate myself because of my body. Yeah, sure, I'd like to be a little thinner, but my worth as a human being in no way relies upon my weight. Regardless of how much I weigh, I'm smart, funny, my husband and children love me to pieces, I do great creative work, in general I can't complain. It sounds like the same is true of you.

To more specifically answer your questions:

1. It's harder to lose weight in your 40s because your metabolism slows as you age. But if you're doing things like a ten-day fast (!!!), that tells me that you're not trying to do this by eating in a healthy and sustainable way. Your body is probably freaked right the heck out about it and holding onto every fat cell it can. Given you're citing lifelong calorie restriction, it's also possible that your old weight was never normal or healthy for you.

2. Exercise is important even for non-weight-related reasons. If running is too upsetting for you because of jiggle-on-impact, maybe you should try cross-training for a while. I like swimming, personally, but you might also enjoy climbing, or dancing. You could also take up strength training and worry about inches, not pounds.

But y'know, not weighing the same thing in your 40s as in your 20s and 30s is pretty much expected and the human condition. Practice being kinder to yourself for a while. It sounds like you need kindness a lot more than you need to drop a few pounds.
posted by Andrhia at 7:27 AM on July 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

My advice to you is to begin to love your body as it is. You have inherited your father's (and society's) sexist and fat- shaming ways. Now is your chance to evaluate and reject that perspective. 5"4 and 140lbs is not overweight! Love and be grateful for the body that you have.

Here's a body positive music video for you.
posted by winterportage at 7:29 AM on July 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

You're allowed to change shape over your life! I guess it's normal to find it a little discombobulating, but it isn't so normal to start bullying yourself over it.

I wonder if it's harder for you to cope with a changing body, because maybe you've wrapped up your self worth in a kind of obsessive self control that goes with running, and now you've been changing some really long term ingrained mental habits, a super tough thing for anyone, and all this change is difficult to process.

Maybe your brain is just desperately shouting "no, don't grow and change on me! I was all comfortable with the status quo! ". But in fact it sounds like you are happier now than you were before and you have been making productive changes to your life, and anyone who wants to sabotage you by making mean comments about your body can F right off. This includes the mean voices in your own head.
posted by emilyw at 7:43 AM on July 26, 2014

Another vote for stop kicking yourself. Stop listening to your father and comparing yourself to people of Facebook.

But I know what a mood elevator regular vigorous exercise can be. Try going alcohol free for a couple of months while you ramp back up with that. If you are drinking more than like once a week, you are probably bloated regardless of what you weigh.
posted by BibiRose at 7:47 AM on July 26, 2014

I definitely echo what everyone has said that you're being way too hard on yourself, people definitely aren't judging you like you think they are, and I'm sure you are just fine.

But one thing I did notice - the Effexor. How long have you been on it? Effexor is notorious for causing weight gain (lots of SSRI/SNRIs do tend to cause some weight gain). If you're really concerned about the 20 pounds, the Effexor might be making it really hard to shed it. You might want to talk to your doc about your options.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:49 AM on July 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

Taking Effexor for depression.

Weight gain is a well-known side effect of a lot of anti-depressants. Don't be too hard on yourself. On preview: Lutoslawski's got it.
posted by Orinda at 7:50 AM on July 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've become asocial and agoraphobic because I feel like people are judging me and grossed out by me when I'm in public, and I certainly don't want to see any friends looking like this.

If I found out a friend had been avoiding me because something about her appearance had changed, I'd be absolutely baffled and my heart would break a little.

You need friends. Right now and always. Isolating yourself means you will give more credence to the mean voices in your head (your dad's, your own, and the imagined collective voice of society) telling you you're gross.

Spending some time with a friend right now might be eye-opening, because if it's a true friend and a good person, there is no way she'd judge you over a relatively minor weight gain (or a big one). These things happen, you are still the same person, you are worth friendship and love no matter what is going on with your body.

Spending some time laughing with a friend might remind you that there are many other aspects to you than this one physical change.

Please don't isolate yourself. It will make you nuts.
posted by jessicapierce at 7:55 AM on July 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

I can really relate to your situation. I am also a marathoner, and I stopped running over the winter and got out of shape due to health reasons (long story... I was going through fertility treatments and trying to give myself the best shot at getting pregnant, but it didn't work). So anyway, I ended up gaining about 10 pounds on a very small frame, and I felt horrible since I had failed at getting pregnant, and I was looking at my running friends' facebook posts about all their marathon accomplishments, and I felt huge and out of shape, etc. So... I know where you're coming from.

At any rate, I started running again on my own for a couple of weeks, just to get my endurance up a tiny bit, and then I rejoined my running group. I was embarrassed since I felt extremely fat and out of shape. But the thing is... no one cared at all, they were just happy to see me. And I started to get back into running, and I felt those endorphins I had been missing so much. And of course the weight started to come off too, which didn't hurt. Although I still have a few pounds to go, I don't feel like it's a big deal anymore. I am getting healthier and feeling better, and I realize that nobody cares about my body size except for me.

I echo Fairchild's comment above about recreational running groups. There are people of all sizes there, and I can guarantee that nobody will think you're fat at 5'4" and 130 pounds or so. If you just get back out there and run, and see that other people don't even notice your size, you will feel better. Not to mention the fact that the exercise itself will probably help with your depression and body image. I always feel more comfortable with my body when I see what it can do.

When you have been isolating yourself, the first step out is always the hardest. But it gets SO much easier after that, when you see that no one is judging you and they are just happy to see you.
posted by barnoley at 8:05 AM on July 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

One thing I would encourage you to do is to buy at least a few really nice pieces of clothing that fit you beautifully, at your current weight and shape. I am in a not-too-different situation from yours, and have discovered that one thing that's guaranteed to put me into one of those self-hate death-spirals is heading out into the day wearing clothes that are too tight, don't fit well, and make me feel like every single fat cell is highlighted in neon. I think having comfortable, attractive, and well-fitting clothing is an important step in attaining the self-acceptance and positive mindset other commentors are advocating, and is *well* worth the investment.
posted by Kat Allison at 8:08 AM on July 26, 2014 [21 favorites]

Be kind to yourself! I sympathize, in that.. I have found nothing makes me instantly feel bad about myself as much as going in a store and trying on clothes that are unflattering because they're too small. Even though really, it's just a number on a size tag and varies like crazy with the brand and not every cut works for every figure.. I still feel terrible, it's subconscious. My work clothes are all the same size, and I imagine that if every day I was trying to fit into things that were suddenly a size or two too small, I'd just be starting off every day feeling bad. It's not rational, but there it is.

So maybe you should just put those clothes that don't fit you right now in storage and don't think about them or try to fit into them. Buy a few new things that look good and fit. If you are planning to try exercise (in addition to running, I recommend yoga! it's the best. and can be beneficial for those with trauma issues) get some workout clothes that are flattering and fit properly. No need to splurge on a whole new professional wardrobe but just don't stay in a situation where you get up every day and try to put on something that doesn't fit and then feel bad, or you're planning to exercise but your workout clothes don't fit and then you are preoccupied with feeling bad. If you can get back into it, personally my experience has been that hard exercise (running) has been 1000x more effective than antidepressants - at the end of the day, appearance/weight management was never enough motivation for me to exercise regularly, even though I worry a lot about these things, thanks to society. It's the effect of exercise on mood, sleep and overall well-being that I just don't know how I could get along without.

Also, honestly "too much alcohol" is something it's probably best to cut back significantly.. it can make you feel more depressed, cause weight gain, and doesn't mix well with antidepressants. even if you weren't trying to lose weight, too much alcohol is kind of guaranteed to keep you feeling down.
posted by citron at 8:13 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I gained twenty pounds over the last year, and though I've never been skinny (I'm your height, and I weighed 140-145 pounds for my entire adult life until now), it still feels awful to find yourself in a body you don't recognize and don't feel like you can control. However, even though I'm now overweight by any definition, I don't think of myself as unloveable or ugly by any means, and it worries me that you feel that way about yourself. For that: therapy. Really.

Remind yourself, even though it's hard, that no one is judging you. Really. People who are close to you and know your old body also know what you've been going through. People who aren't and don't know what you looked like before are going to think that you're thin. 5'4" and 130 pounds is still thin.

Things that have helped me:
- like you, I gained the weight because I stopped exercising (thanks, Polar Vortex). I am back to exercising religiously. Not much success with weight loss, but it's made my body look a lot better. (And made me feel a lot better about it.) While I'm exercising I remind myself how great it is that my body can do all of these things, no matter what size it is.
- I am a world-class grazer, so not having appealing snacks around (I'm not even a junk food eater, but I'll happily eat leftovers from dinner alll day)
- less success with this so far, but drinking only on the weekends.
- buying clothes that fit my current body. If you feel like you are falling out of your clothes, of course you'll feel huge.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:17 AM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your question resonates with me so much, anonymous friend. I was in an abusive relationship with a man who was obsessed with my weight, and I became obsessed, too.

Two years out now (go us!) and food is still a daily struggle for me. I have recently put on a few pounds at my doctors request and let me tell you, it absolutely sucked. So I know how you feel. You and I are both what they call "a healthy weight" but it sure doesn't look it or feel it inside my head.

That is because I have an eating disorder. A diagnosis and discussions with my doctor about this really helped. I have gained a total of 15 pounds since leaving my abuser and I needed every bit of it. He had whittled me down - well, at his insistence and behest I whittled myself down - to 88 pounds. I'm short, so this wasn't as dramatic as it sounds, but it was dramatic enough to warrant an anorexia diagnosis and to stop my period.

I think many of us survivors find food to be a Thing. It's a way of maintaining control over ourselves in an environment where someone else has previously exerted tremendous control. It is an anchor. It's a way of saying: "This is my body and I control it." So this difficulty you're having with the new weight... it's probably all balled up with control and your abuser and your way of life with him and your transition out, all that nasty and hard stuff.

I don't know what advice I have other than: don't see your dad as often, and hide those skinny friends on Facebook. I've actually found that not owning a scale is really important for me. I still find ways to sneak onto scales at my boyfriend or friends houses but I no longer weigh myself every time I'm in the bathroom.

I guess the point of my comment is that struggling with body image and food after an abusive relationship is not abnormal. I have some friends who I met in support group and we often talk about how hard this very issue is when we hang out.

I have also tried to mentally reframe things. Like when I eat I say to myself, "Good job! You got the calories you need today!" because I reflexively count calories. Eating super healthy helps too: I try to have fresh vegetables and lots of protein and fruit around the house. And also ice cream, because when I left my abuser I decided I was going to eat ice cream every single day for the rest of my life. Because I can.

I know the struggle is hard. Take care of yourself. Part of taking care of yourself is being kind to yourself. Treasure yourself. Sometimes I tell myself that one of the many costs of leaving was getting a little chubby. And that helps me love my fat a bit. It's hard-won, my tummy pooch. And I'd rather be with it than in the past with that monster any day of the week!

Hang in there. Feel free to Memail me if you want to chat.
posted by sockermom at 8:18 AM on July 26, 2014 [10 favorites]

Oh, and one thing I meant to add -- I say this with great caution, but your comment about how you can't stand feeling your belly flopping while you run is something I am *so* familiar with, and one thing that helped me was getting one of those Spanx shapewear undergarments that sort of holds everything more securely in place. Again, great caution, because this could set off "oh, great, now I have to wear a goddamned GIRDLE" toxic messaging in your head. But it does sound like being able to get back into running (slowly, sensibly, not pushing too hard and injuring yourself) would be a plus for your mental and physical well-being, and this approach has made running more comfortable for me. Might be worth a try. (I just put the damn thing in the same mental category as a running bra, if that helps for you.)
posted by Kat Allison at 8:19 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I clicked on this post I was expecting that you were 200 pounds or more, like something that would require major lifestyle changes to affect. Yet you say you gained TWENTY pounds only, and are now 130? And it's mostly because you fell out of the habit of working out? Dude, you could work off 20 pounds before Christmas.

And your father is a fucking asshole.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:49 AM on July 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

My live-in partner loves me like I am, so the driver is me alone in this nightmare. Historically, my father has always been super critical of fat females and is horrified by me now. He's embarrassed and ashamed, but I see him maybe once every two months.

From one skinny girl to another. You need to seek help for this viewpoint. You are well within normal weight (I'm your height and weigh about what you did and hell, I'm TINY! I'm actively trying to gain weight.)

Look, I get it. Being super tiny my whole life, then all of sudden my hips would grow and I couldn't fit into any pants. I'd even get a bit of the "do I look fat?" because the too-small pants would give me bulges on my hips. Then I'd find clothes that fit and I'd be like "Oh, this is actually great now!" And this process has happened multiple times in my life.

So, go out and buy pants that fit. Don't be fooled by the sizes, which are all bullshit. Just get what fits. You will feel SO much better in clothes that fit.

Treat yourself to a new bra too. Get measured at Nordstrom and visit A Bra That Fits. A supportive bra for any girl will make her feel awesome. Now, lock up your scale for a while.

Then, you need to discuss this with your therapist.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:55 AM on July 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also, honestly "too much alcohol" is something it's probably best to cut back significantly.. it can make you feel more depressed, cause weight gain, and doesn't mix well with antidepressants. even if you weren't trying to lose weight, too much alcohol is kind of guaranteed to keep you feeling down.

In addition to all this, alcohol contains a lot of empty calories just on its own. A single shot of whiskey or a bottle of beer each have over 100 calories or more. It's very easy to blow a whole day's calorie deficit with only a couple of drinks.

I'm struggling to lose weight, too, and I can definitely tell that when I indulge with alcohol, I just don't lose the weight.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:08 AM on July 26, 2014

You fasted for 10 days? You are agoraphobic because of your concern about your appearance?

Many of us - most of us? - sympathize with feeling uncomfortable in our bodies. It's so common. I've felt it too. But your condition right now is preventing you from living your life. You can't engage in your normal activities, you can't move about freely, and you can't get your mind off of this. And apparently you can't even eat! This is not OK. This is not healthy. I'm actually flabbergasted that people aren't pointing out the degree to which your choices and behavior indicate a serious problem. A dear friend of mine has had her life endangered multiple times by an eating disorder and I've been *right there* with her in the hospital to see just how awful it can be. Please take care of yourself. Get help. This is not normal. I'm so worried about you and I don't want you to suffer the way I've seen my friend suffer. Think of the people who love you - they don't want you to suffer either, and they love you the way you are NOW. Try to imagine what it would feel like to actually have that attitude about yourself. It would be radical.

And, in case a real world check helps you out: I am 5'2" (barely) and I weigh 117 and I am not overweight. And neither are you.
posted by Cygnet at 9:18 AM on July 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

Historically, my father has always been super critical of fat females and is horrified by me now. He's embarrassed and ashamed, but I see him maybe once every two months.

Hey, look, it's a major ED risk factor!

I mean, I'm bringing this up for a reason. I've had my ED tendencies mostly under control since my early 20s, but in my 30s it's been getting bad again, especially because I did actually gain some weight--much more than yours, I feel the need to add, even though that's stupid, you see how it goes--MY WEIGHT GAIN IS TOTALLY LEGITIMATE TO ANGST ABOUT, YOURS IS FINE. Brains are stupid. Mine has also been long helped along by a hyper-critical parent. Your brain is not to be trusted about this because it has been long contaminated by toxic people. Get off Facebook. Inform your dad that you will be ending any conversation where he brings up your weight immediately. Get rid of those outside influences until you have some inner balance. That doesn't mean don't socialize. That means don't socialize on Facebook. Everybody's lives will make you feel awful if you only see them on Facebook.

However, that doesn't mean that your running goals are bad:

How can I get my running mojo back? I can't stand feeling my belly flopping to the point that I stop running. I've never before had a belly.

I am 5'8" and over 200 and I am able to jog comfortably, not because I'm okay with the belly bounce, but because I have specifically bought running clothes that fit in such a way as to hold things in place. I haven't done it myself, but I know one person recommended to me when I started that I look into whether I could tolerate jogging in Spanx. It wasn't my cup of tea, but although it's kind of hot, it was mostly that a snug-fitting pair of leggings helped me about as much and was cheaper. You wouldn't run without the right bra, it's totally okay to also be wearing other clothing to minimize bounce while you're going, even when having a belly is a totally okay thing to have. Breasts are also totally okay to have, still massively uncomfortable when bouncing!

And, yes, in general: shop for the body you have this moment, not the body you want to have in a year. Shop for that body in a year. Gear up properly for the body you've got right now and you can enjoy yourself again. If I can, you can.

(That 200+ thing? That is why not to do extended fasting. Since college, I'm convinced my body now knows how to turn inhaled nitrogen into fat reserves. It WILL wreck you.)
posted by Sequence at 9:27 AM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

You need to go buy two or three outfits that fit really well and look great. I kept just buying cheap, crappy, temporary clothes when I was trying to lose my baby weight, because I didn't plan on wearing them for long; as a result, I felt shitty and ugly and I didn't want to deal with my body because I felt shitty and ugly. Finally I gave in and said, "This weight isn't going anywhere" and bought myself a professional outfit I felt GREAT in, and some casual clothes that looked really cute for hanging out with my friends. And then because I felt GOOD about myself and was not constantly being reminded I was schlubby and gross by my clothing, it was a lot easier to start doing things to take care of my body, and it helped a LOT with weight-related self-esteem.

If you don't wear them for very long, because feeling better about your body makes it easier for you to take care of yourself and lose weight, so what? You donate them to a women's shelter so another woman leaving an abusive situation has something awesome to wear to interviews.

And if you do wear them for a longer period of time, you will know that you look kick-ass.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:27 AM on July 26, 2014 [10 favorites]

The language you use about yourself in this post is heartbreaking. It's unfortunately familiar to me. Several people I've been close to in the course of my life have dealt with eating disorders. Please discuss these issues with your therapist. If you're limiting your time outside and with friends because of how you feel about your body - that's a level of distress that would benefit from professional help.

One friend I knew in college had an eating disorder that included compulsive exercising - she was a runner like you, and would also go back and forth with calorie restriction. Nobody here can tell you whether you have an ED or not, but this is just to let you know that this kind of thing can fall under the ED umbrella.

Another friend who I've known for 20 years had been struggling since early adolescence with an eating disorder and a lot of the negative body image and over-the-top harsh self-talk that is evident in your post. She's actually written a book about her ongoing recovery, and now leads workshops and teaches body-positive yoga. MeMail or email me if you want more information.

You're dealing with a really hard situation here. Please take advantage of the resources you already have in place (your therapist), and also investigate ways to get more support - different medications, or cognitive strategies, or just nice things you can do for yourself.
posted by expialidocious at 9:56 AM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can only add to the pile-on urging you to discuss this with your therapist because you shouldn't feel even a fraction of this terrible about being a completely normal weight.

As another bit of anecdata, I am 39, exactly the same height as you and weigh about 145lbs, which is maybe 10lbs more than I weighed until two or three years ago. Sometimes I feel a bit miffed about it, but I still regard myself as being utterly within the normal weight range. I do, as others have noted above, feel much better about myself when I'm wearing clothes that fit me now rather than bursting out of clothes that fit me in the past.

I certainly don't want to see any friends looking like this.

This is the sentence that makes me so want to reach out and hug you. Honestly, if I saw a friend of your (our!) height who used to be 110lbs and was now 130lbs, if I had a single passing thought about their weight at all, it would be "Oh hey, friend is looking a much healthier weight these days, she must be so much more relaxed and happier now she's with newboyfriend, how great."

Please seek help for your unhappiness, not for your weight.
posted by penguin pie at 10:28 AM on July 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm all for the body-positive attitude, but hey, it's also ok to *not* like your body and do something to change it. It sounds like you have a small body structure overall, and a 20-pound gain on your tiny frame can feel like a ton. So, yeah it's great to learn to love your body and all, but if you want to make changes, that's ok too and don't let anyone invalidate the way you feel.

Anyway, consider the following:
*Don't* fast -- it'll screw up your metabolism.
Examine what you eat; try to keep the healthy things and cut back on unhealthy things.
Don't drink so much alcohol.
Get your partner on board, especially with the healthy eating.
Maybe try some weight training -- adding muscle will help reduce the "floppiness" you feel.
Try long/fast walks instead of running (walking produces less of a "floppy" feel).
Only eat when you're hungry. Stop eating before you feel full.
Start with small steps and don't expect the weight to come off super quickly.

Good luck!
posted by phoenix_rising at 11:25 AM on July 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I understand and can relate to some of what you wrote. So much of your identify is tied to your body: the running, marathons - a lot is this is about pushing yourself and your body to achieve, and the discipline behind it, so gaining weight can feel like a betrayal to yourself.

You need to get back into running. This will alleviate a lot of the negativity you're feeling.

Gaining weight in your 40s? Tell me about it. It's harder to lose weight and our bodies don't snap back upon command like they used to. That's a huge change and I'm dealing with that as well. The 10 day fast won't help with this. You need to run and eat healthfully and differently than you did before. Remember, it's still simple math: you need to burn more than you consume.

Also, you're being so hard on yourself. Would you talk to a friend like this? Try talking to yourself the way you'd talk with your best friend.

posted by vivzan at 11:48 AM on July 26, 2014

Second question is easier than the first. Just do more running today than you did the last time you ran, and keep doing that over and over until you get into a groove. Once you get momentum and feel stronger and fitter, you'll feel less frustrated with how out of shape and flabby you feel each time you run. I know, it's dispiriting when you are used to being able to run for hours and feel lean and fast, and now you feel soft and fat and hopelessly out of shape.

So, if you set out on a run and want to quit because you feel your belly bounce all over the place, fine. You can quit, but only after you do more than last time. Maybe that means the same distance but at a faster pace, maybe it means the same time but a further distance, maybe it just means adding two more minutes to your run each time you go out. The way to get over this hump is just to keep doing a little more than last time until you get to that moment where you start to get excited about getting back into shape.

The first question is harder, because you're past that point where you can do that One Weird Trick to help you lose ten unwanted pounds. You've got to have a plan and you have to execute that plan. This takes self-discipline, which is by definition difficult. But it is certainly possible to feel lean and strong again, and it's certainly possible to fit into the same clothes you're used to wearing. You can do this.

You need to have a plan for three things: nutrition, exercise, and recovery. There's possibly some low hanging fruit based on what you said, so I'll talk about that.

First, nutrition. You mentioned fasting and drinking alcohol. Fuck that, that's not nutrition, that's not putting stuff into your body that's going to make you lean and strong and help you fit into the clothes you fit into not too long ago. An approach that has been super effective for me is to, every single day, have a plan for what I'm going to eat. Every day. It sucks, it's hard, and it takes work and time and preparation, but it's been effective. If you always know what your next meal is going to be, it's a lot easier to stay on track. The good news is that after 2 or 3 weeks of this it becomes easier since you start to feel better about yourself and you get used to the routine. But you're going to be unhappy with yourself during the next two weeks no matter what, right? You might as well spend that time productively.

Figure out a rough idea of how many calories you need to eat in a day to maintain your bodyweight at your age and activity level, and then plan to create a calorie deficit. Aim for something like 300 calories below what you think you need. You can tweak this if it doesn't work or if you feel like it's leaving you too hungry and weak. Use a tool like that found at www.fitday.com to plan a day's worth of eating that gives you about 150g of protein. That's 600 calories from protein. You also want a good amount of calories from fat, so make sure you get that, and the rest can come from carbs. Eat a shitload of vegetables. It's easier for me to eat 5-6 times a day because I'm less likely to feel hungry and weak.

Do this consistently, just keep piling on the days. If you can fast, which has to be fucking miserable, you can do this. But deal with the reality that once you're 40 you can't just cut out sugar for a week or two and go on some runs and drop a pants size.

You said you belong to a gym but you didn't say you strength train. Start doing this. And make it hard, too. Use the assisted pullup/dip machine to work your way up to a goal of doing dips and pullups with your bodyweight. Do sets of pushups until your arms feel like jelly. Do lunges and things that work the big muscles in your legs. Don't just wander around from machine to machine, and don't just rely on classes. Plan to strength train 2-3x a week, and make a plan. Each time try to do something you didn't do last time: one more rep, a little more weight on a lift, another set, whatever. Grow each time, just a little. You will feel yourself get stronger after about 3 weeks of 2-3x at the gym. Feeling stronger helps with how you feel about your body, even if you're unhappy about how you look in the mirror or even if your clothes are still tighter than you want.

Also, here's a list of things you could consider that might help you break through and get to the point where you get some momentum:

1. Run with a partner who will push you and make you keep your commitment to running.
2. Set small achievable goals and reward yourself each time you make one.
3. Publicly commit to the process by posting on a place like nerdfitness.com or some other supportive fitness community.
4. Stop weighing yourself and start using a soft measuring tape to measure your belly or wherever else you want to get leaner.
5. Only take measurements once every 14 days.
6. Take before photographs of yourself in a bathing suit and hang onto them so you can see the progress you make.
7. Sign up for a half marathon in October or November and download a training schedule and get to work.
8. Weigh everything you eat with a food scale. Measure everything you eat with measuring cups.
9. Journal daily about how you are feeling and what your plan for tomorrow will be.
10. Don't rely on your partner to assist you, realize that you have to make these choices on your own, and if he wants to eat something unhealthy he can, but that's his choice.
11. Make gradual changes with the things that are the hardest for you to change--one less night of drinking a week, each week give up one problematic food item at a time, don't necessarily go all or nothing if that doesn't work for you
12. Be mindful of who you talk about fitness and eating with. Sometimes friends and family will sabotage efforts to be really committed to healthy eating and exercise, even if it is coming from the most pure, loving place.
13. Write affirmations about how strong and fit you're making yourself, and put them in places where you'll see them a lot.
14. Don't weigh yourself, ever. It doesn't matter what you weigh. It matters how you feel, how your clothes fit, and what you see when you look in the mirror (think about how the answers to this question would have differed if you hadn't mentioned weight and instead had just said you feel flabby and your clothes don't fit). It's not about weight, it's about fitness and leanness.
15. If you have money to spend on meal replacement shakes, consider doing this if it makes your life easier.
16. Have a plan in place for those days when you get off track. If you go out for a few drinks and eat half a pizza, the next morning you just go right back to work. Don't beat yourself up over it and just keep working your plan.

This is about longevity, consistency, and intensity. You're more likely to succeed if you do this for a longer period of time, if you do this day in and day out, and if you have a focused diet and exercise plan. This is totally possible. It's sucky and frustrating to feel how you're feeling. There's nothing wrong with wanting to feel lean and strong and not have a belly and fit into the clothes you're used to wearing (and there's nothing wrong with deciding you're okay with the way you look and feel, if you're healthy enough, either). You can do this.
posted by sock me amadeus at 1:33 PM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wonder if your running friends may also be very weight loss oriented and whether it might be good for you to talk more with non-running friends right now?
posted by Omnomnom at 1:58 PM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am your height and 130 lbs is my goal weight. I have a lot of identity issues tied up in my weight, and years of unhealthy eating habits. I am also over 40 and on meds that make losing hard. I don't know if you need to lose weight. But here's what works for me: Weight Watchers. The program is is very supportive of fragile people like me, and much more about loving yourself than people might think, and it has been very successful. (30 lbs down) I always feel better after a meeting, even if I haven't lost any weight that week. Weight Watchers puts me in control, and that is an important place for me to be right now.
posted by Biblio at 2:54 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm really sorry. I've gone through similar feelings about my body, and the feelings were so intensely negative. It was a really hard time for me, and I'm sorry you're going through what sounds like something similar. Some ideas, based on what helped me:

1. Avoid using Facebook as much as possible.
2. Focus on the sense of accomplishment you get from running. That will always be there, no matter what.
3. Talking about this with a therapist could help, especially regarding feelings of shame. Avoiding the feelings tends to reinforce them. Talking about the thoughts and feelings, at least for me, helped me realize how cruel these thought were, and to defuse them.
4. You might like the intuitive eating books. They can help counter that feeling of needing to restrict, or fast, or batten down the hatches in other ways.
posted by MrBobinski at 6:55 PM on July 26, 2014

Count me amongst those who were shocked and saddened to discover that you were calling yourself fat at my own weight (I'm a little shorter than you). This is a normal weight, we are thin, not fat. You've already gotten great advice, so I'm only adding this so you can see how many people are offering the same reassurance.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:01 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I do want to point out that even if you were several hundred pounds over your current weight, you would still deserve to have loving friends, a loving romantic partner, loving parents, clothes that fit you, and, most importantly, a brain free of abusive thoughts.

Please don't get trapped in the idea that you have to maintain any particular weight range in order to be a worthwhile, loved human being.
posted by jaguar at 10:26 AM on July 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am exactly 5 foot short and when I went to give blood at 108lbs I was told I was too underweight to do so. The dress I got married in at 110lbs went into my children's dressing up box. None of my daughters could wear it past the age of 9. I guess I'm saying it might be time to recalibrate what you think is a healthy weight for a woman.

My own healthy weight hovers between 8 and a half and 9 stone. Let me repeat that I'm 5 foot nothing, or 152 cms. If I'm thoroughly stressed, miserable and sick I will weigh less. If I'm less miserable but frustrated I will weigh more. If I'm happy and busy my body will settle down to it's comfortable weight. I'm fond of my funny old body because it has done some pretty amazing, powerful things, come to terms with a couple of chronic physical conditions and and given me so much pleasure in the form of sex, sleep and yummy dinners. I'm writing this not to crow but because I believe not only do you have to make an effort to be a loving person, but you MUST include your own self within the circle of your love. What I'm doing here is like showing my work in how I try to get there myself. Also, I'm pretty small too - I was exceptionally slender as a young woman, I wouldn't feel it was realistic to want to be like that again. What for? So I can also emulate being young by being naive and not knowing anything and trusting unsuitable people? What fun.

I mean it's a shame about the cupboard full of too-small clothes but think how much fun you could have buying new ones? Won't the old ones keep reminding you of the past anyway? You're living a new life, get clothes to match. Those old tiny clothes, they're like...I don't know, they're kind of like a sign of your bondage. You've outgrown them. Get rid of them.

I want to wish you good luck and I really, really mean it.

The way you've written your ask makes me think you've grappled with these thoughts before, they've been something of an entrenched habit and you have defeated them but they're back for round two (or four, whatever.) You know these thoughts. No doubt they'll be back again. Maybe you can just look at them, recognise them, acknowledge them like you would a nasty aunty that you have to be polite to but don't allow to get under your skin.

Please don't ever go on a 10-day fast again. It is SO bad for you, and puts your body into starvation mode so it's going to hold on to those calories! Oh yeah and your metabolism totally slows down as your 40s segue into your 50s. Big time. So what? Maybe it's a sign not to push yourself too hard?

So to be more exact about answering your question, I try hard to like myself and be as kind to myself as I am to everyone else, and if anything hurts too much I seriously consider that maybe I shouldn't be doing it. Or that I'm likely doing it wrong. I do light stretches, body conditioning and jogging and it keeps me flexible and moderately fit. And I try not to confuse virtue with pain and suffering, because I'm pretty sure that's a very human thing to do but likely a great big fallacy.
posted by glasseyes at 1:43 PM on July 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Forgot to say:
I've become asocial and agoraphobic because I feel like people are judging me and grossed out by me when I'm in public, and I certainly don't want to see any friends looking like this.

This is your trauma talking. You're tackling it with therapy, it's trying to find a new way to manifest.

Also Historically, my father has always been super critical of fat females and is horrified by me now. He's embarrassed and ashamed Does that sound like good parenting to you? What?
posted by glasseyes at 1:47 PM on July 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

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